Another student guest post on coalition governments, this one on Ireland!
Ireland’s latest governing coalition does not include Fianna Fáil for the first time since its independence from Great Britain. Instead the current coalition is comprised of the two largest political parties in Ireland, the Fine Gael and the Labour Party. This is an unusual pairing, because these two political parties have very different political ideologies. The Fine Gael is a Christian Democrat Party, which is a rightist party and the Labour Party is a Social Democrat Party, which is a leftist party. Though they have fairly dissimilar positions, this is one of the most stable governments that Ireland has had in years for only two parties hold the majority in the Dáil, the lower house in parliament, rather than several different parties.
The Fine Gael currently holds the majority with 76 of the 166 seats in the Dáil, controlling 45.8% of the parliament. The Labour Party is the second largest party in the Dáil and has 37 seats or 22.3% of the seats in parliament. Combined, these two parties hold 113 seats, which is 68.1% of the Dáil. (Ireland). This coalition is considered a minimal winning government, which is a governing coalition formed by parties that have distant political ideologies and are forming this group for political advantages.
The Fine Gael created a coalition with the Labour Party in order to control over 50% of the Dáil. Having two parties control the majority of the parliament is a political advantage in that it is easier to create policies and compromise when there are only two positions to satisfy. As a result of the compromises, this coalition has exerted a center-right ideology, where they have been monetarily conservative while still maintaining aspects of the social welfare state. This may seem as though the Fine Gael is controlling the coalition, but the current economic crisis does not allow the Labour Party to fund as many social projects as it usually would promote. Their main objective is to create a plan to eliminate Ireland’s debt and alleviate the negative effects of the financial crisis in order to satisfy Irish citizens. Both parties must give-and-take in this scenario for the sake of the country.
The coalition has excluded the Fianna Fáil for several reasons, one of which is that the coalition was able to gain over half of the seats in parliament with just two parties. Other reasons include that the Fianna Fáil is currently criticized by the Irish due to their inability to minimize the effects of the economic crisis that is currently engulfing their nation. In the most recent election in Ireland, that took place in 2011, both the Fine Gael and the Labour Party were notably more popular than previous elections, while the Fianna Fáil lost a majority of their power in the government.
The new direction that Ireland’s government is undertaking shows signs of stability and compromise, which is necessary for the future of the country. The new governing coalition is stepping in uncharted territory in that there has never been such a grouping of parties in Ireland’s history, but there is a window of opportunity for this coalition to establish itself. The performance of this coalition, especially in terms of the economic crisis, is likely to determine the voting patterns of the citizens. This group must balance their contradictory ideologies and the needs of the citizens in order to be successful and to maintain this structure, but this is not an easy task. But hey, at least they don’t have to worry about the Fianna Fáil anymore!
“Ireland.” Parties and Elections in Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2012. http://www.parties-and-elections.de/ireland.html
McDonald, Henry. (2011, February 26). Fianna Fáil trounced as Fine Gael and Labour set to form coalition. The Guardian. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/26/fianna-fail-irish-general-election
McDonald, Henry. (2012, March 6). Irish coalition government formed between Fine Gael and Labour . The Guardian. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/06/irish-coalition-government-fine-labour
Sootla, Georg. (n.d.). Introduction: politico-administrative dichotomy as the dimension of life of Government. Google. Retrieved March 23, 2012, from http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Az9GQdOkZ2gJ:www.nispa.org/news/sootla.rtf+minimal-winning+government+definition&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us