Sunday 18 March 2018

Another week of political disgrace

The clearest finding from today's Sunday Independent Millward Brown poll is that Ireland's political system is sleepwalking into a crisis of legitimacy. This troubling development goes far beyond the levels of party political support, for not one of the Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein party leaders has satisfied even a quarter of the electorate, while the most popular leader, Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin, has a dismal satisfaction rating of 29 per cent. And the graph of public support for all four is falling. Chillingly, less than 20 per cent of voters are satisfied with the way the Government is running the country and it is doubtful the public is any more content with the way the Opposition is opposing how the country is being run.

Public faith in other institutions is also failing to thrive, for an astonishingly low 12 per cent of respondents in the Millward Brown poll believe banks can be trusted to act fairly with distressed home-owners. You are in a pretty fix indeed as an institution when you are more unpopular than the Government, but in a week when the HSE and yet another government minister, Alan Shatter, made a public disgrace of themselves, it is likely the banks are not unique.

It is unfortunate that the only response we receive from a Government that is faithful only in implementing the policies of the predecessor it opposed so vigorously – to the collapse of faith in politics – is the claim that "the plan is working". At the risk of being accused of being simplistic, all we will say about that is that the plan is working so well the Coalition has lost one-fifth of an electorate that gave it such an overwhelming majority. And there is little to suggest it is capable of knowing or even caring about how it might regain it. In a scenario where the Opposition is equally incapable of convincing the public to support it, Irish democracy exists in an existential vacuum.

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