With all this going on it’s hard to know if you’re left or right in Ireland, especially when you listen to radical viewpoints. For example the far right will call Fine Gael Marxist traitors while those on the left call them Leo liberal poshboys.
Those on the right believing Ireland to be left leaning, especially in comparison to American conservatism, and those on the left believing we’re following the neo liberal ideology of the UK a little too closely. Meanwhile the confused centre thinks they’re getting the best of both worlds, but in reality they’re just successfully failing the extremists. Nonetheless the centre trods along, contently believing it is doing the best for average Jane and middle class Joe.
For example coalition partner Jackie Cahill (FF) said of the 2021 budget “I do not believe it is an overstatement to say that this is the most progressive, stimulation focused budget in the history of our State”, much to the confusion of pensioners, child care workers, unemployed youths, regular motorists, and perhaps the entertainment industry, who wondered what was so progressive about it.....but with hospitality vat slashed to 9% to help the recovery it’s more clear what is meant by stimulation focused. After all we’re one step closer to the greatest recession ever seen.
This leads me onto my next point on what exactly is left and right politics, where is the centre, and what is its purpose. As a very lose definition the centre is a friend to wealth creation and will make reasonable arguments to justify its actions, despite knowing that some are harmful to Irish society or the climate. Most centrists are capitalists who invest in the game and usually have some business interests that influence their decision making. The Irish centre is European, expresses itself through Gaelic traditions, and believes in stable market growth.
On the other hand the left tend to make ideological decisions based on moral conscience that put people’s well being ahead of profit motives, as a result the left is often snubbed as a hippiesh venture that would result in a low wage economy with little personal opportunity.
Generally speaking the right push for survival of the fittest in a low tax economy, they tend to not want to share wealth and believe in little government interference, with a preference for the market to provide goods and services at whatever price that might be. In Ireland the right have close ties to conservative values, Christian doctrine, and can be traditionalist in how they view roles for men & women.
How someone develops on this left/right spectrum will reflect how they view the world and form political loyalties. That said it’s not always clear if our big parties are left or right, the pendulum swings, and often individuals can have a huge variance in opinion from one another; even within the same political party. All the same I thought I’d present some scenarios to help explain the difference between left and right politics on some key issues in Ireland.
This might seem like a confusing issue, with people you think to be left or right calling to end property tax, but generally speaking the left look to implement taxes that are as fair as possible while the right look to pay the least amount of tax possible. As the Marxist adage goes; ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their need’. Leftists believe society is a cooperative venture in which people of means should contribute the most.
The group most supportive of property tax in Ireland is the Labour party, with Brendan Howlin saying:
“"Local Property Tax is designed to be as fair as possible, with those in more exclusive dwellings paying more. Anyone who cannot afford to pay due to a low income is able to defer payment.....Local Property Tax is essential for local councils to deliver road repairs, street lighting, playgrounds, public parks and many more local services. Local people should be given more say over what needs to be funded in their areas”.
The ability to raise taxes to fund local projects is a critical component to involve people in local politics, to show how we can work as a co-operative to the benefit of the community. Whether this is fixing a bridge, or painting old houses, or building a bingo hall.....the council needs money and in recent years this isn’t coming from central government.
LPT isn’t just about tax, it’s about empowerment, and making local decisions to benefit the community. The LPT was introduced by a Fine Gael / Labour Government in 2013 but is generally opposed by FG / FF/ Sinn Fein while the Social Democrats look for reform to allow a greater amount of LPT to be spent in the area it’s collected.
Approaches to Covid 19 vary differently, depending on how much you believe in science. The result is that wearing a mask has become a statement of solidarity, and not wearing one a symbol of individuality and belief in personal freedom.
Left leaning ideology puts significant value on every single life, and calls for a total lockdown aiming for a zero covid country, with the government providing free grain for an indefinite period while we achieve this. The strategy could only be achieved in a co-operative society that lowers the cost of living by way of debt forgiveness, free rent, and greater control of the supply chain to ensure everyone eats.
Meanwhile fun loving economy lovers on the right believe we need to warehouse the sick and elderly in order to let the party continue. On one hand the right call for herd immunity, while on the other they dismiss Covid 19 as a fake news story, and tend to call it the Kung-Flu.
The centre have taken half measures, closing part of the economy down, in an effort to rollercoaster the virus until a cure is found. Of course the left will argue the cure should be free for all, the centre will insist we pay a suitable price for it, and the right think the vaccine is a tracking device that sterilises alpha males.
Thankfully most our parties fall left of centre when it comes to how we handle the virus, even the current government have made left leaning decisions on the crisis, but one has to think the outcome of the February 2020 elections set the agenda on how we responded, which is an optimistic reflection on the power and consequence of democracy.
Another key differentiator we have to consider is climate change. The right don’t actually believe we as a species are responsible for global warming, and they dismiss all scientific evidence in favour of viewing it as an act of god. Sadly there are a few of these people in the Dail, they tend to believe anyone with a love of nature has idle hands, and climate action comes at too high a cost to the economy.
Centrists like FF/FG and the Greens believe in collective action and aim to stall global warming by meeting EU targets and directives. They believe in applying carbon taxes on goods that are bad for the environment in order to gradually price them out of the economy.
Labour are slightly to the left of this and want to ensure any carbon taxes are pumped back into the economy to support transitioning to green energies, retrofitting houses, and subsidising electric cars. However this is problematic as in the past few years Ireland has been fined heavily by Europe for not meeting targets.
Further left leaning parties like Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats believe carbon charges are a tax on the poor which don’t modify behaviour so much as they punish those who can’t afford to transform. They call for carbon taxes to be poverty proofed or income sensitive.
The ultra left believe we are on the crest of Armageddon and must immediately transform to a green economy, calling for a green new deal to prevent the apocalypse, they are likely to take more radical action than to wait on our EU neighbours to call the shots. People of this persuasion tend to be more troubled by the dogma of extinction than the thought of how far you can go on a Nissan Leaf - without stopping to charge it (not far enough).