Saturday 10 December 2016

Decline of two Civil War parties may see us become ungovernable

Our multiple-party coalitions are in fact making it very difficult to get anything done, writes Dan O'Brien

Published 27/04/2014 | 02:30

THE OLD GUARD: Liam Cosgrave of Fine Gael and Jack Lynch of Fianna Fail in 1981
THE OLD GUARD: Liam Cosgrave of Fine Gael and Jack Lynch of Fianna Fail in 1981

IRELAND may soon become ungovernable. With the political dominance of the two Civil War parties in permanent decline and without any of the mechanisms that other countries employ to favour stable government, the splintering of the vote is pointing ominously towards Italian-style political chaos. Short-lived and unstable multi-member coalitions, incapable of providing effective government, are looking increasingly likely to be the new normal in Irish politics.

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It is a quarter of century since the last single-party government held office and it is now almost inconceivable that any one party will ever govern alone. That is not because of short or even medium-term political factors, but in keeping with a profound underlying trend.

Over the past three decades the combined share of the two Civil War parties' first preference vote has been in decline. From 80 per cent and more in the decades up to the early Eighties, the Fianna Fail-Fine Gael share of the vote has been shrinking. In 2011 it plummeted to less than 54 per cent.

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