‘Democratic Revolution’ in Ireland

Irish General Election - Enda Kenny's Victory ...

Enda Kenny claims victory for Fine Gael at Burlington Hotel. By infomatique via Flickr

Countries with elected parliaments operate under a strict-constructionist interpretation of the “consent of the governed” clause.

Irish voters lashed out in economic pain this week, withdrawing their consent in no uncertain terms, and dismissing Ireland’s longtime ruling party, Fianna Fail. It may be a historic change election.

Enda Kenny, leader of the victorious Fine Gael party, called it a “democratic revolution.” See the Christian Science Monitor story.

Irish voters are incensed over the banking meltdown and the collapse of housing values — which left their country nearly bankrupt — and angry about bailouts by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Fine Gael is projected to win 75 seats in the Irish parliament, 8 seats short of a majority, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Relying on the revised consent of the governed, Mr. Kenny is expected to forge a coalition government with the Labour Party, projected to win 37 seats.

75 seats + 37 seats = consent of the governed

The consent of the governed is just so tenuously conferred, and is valid so long as the new coalition can dodge a vote of no-confidence.

For the long-powerful Fianna Fail party, consent was replaced by contempt. Fianna Fail was reduced from 77 seats to a woeful minority of 20. And the Green Party was wiped out, losing all 6 of its seats.

Exactly what the new ruling coalition will do differently is far from clear, but the voters are not pleased that their recent proud prosperity has been reduced to indebted austerity.  They believe that ordinary Irish citizens are not responsible for the economic collapse, but are  bearing the resulting hardship.

Mr. Kenny has indicated that he will attempt to renegotiate interest payments on the unpopular bailout.

Spectacular street protests against dictators in Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya have attracted far more news coverage in the U.S.  However, this Irish election is more relevant to the political mood and financial power struggles in the Western democracies. (It’s interesting that the Irish vote comes as Republican governors fight to inflict a strong dose of austerity in the U.S.)

I can’t wait to learn more about the transfer of consent in Ireland. What course will the Fine Gael-Labour coalition chart?

Whether Democrats and Republicans can discern anything of value regarding consent of the governed in the U.S. remains to be seen.

— John Hayden

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