The 1918 election saw a surge in the Sinn Féin vote. The ruling party, the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), in power since 1882, fell from 79 seats to six.
The current Sinn Féin surge cannot be as dramatic as the party does not have sufficient candidates sitting, and the multi-seat PR system makes one-party government almost impossible. Back in 1918, the rising tide was helped by the British system of voting.
But the true reasons for the walkover in 1918 were: The IPP had overseen the worst slums in Europe, while leading lights in the IPP “locked” out the 1913 strikers from work, forcing many into the British army as the only means of feeding their families.
The electorate (which included women for the first time) had seen 50,000 of their loved ones die in Flanders Fields and Suvla Bay.
The current Government, while not having the slums, does have 10,000 families, including 4,000 children, living in hotels.
While 900 meals a day and 1,400 food parcels a week must be provided by the Capuchin Day Centre. Brother Sean Donohoe of the centre says that “the numbers coming each day and each week are growing”.
All this as Fine Gael boasts of being the most successful Government in Europe.
These figures alone, apart from housing shortages, queues in A&Es and a host of other shortcomings, are evidence enough for a radical change from the centrists parties.
These parties must reform themselves from dependence on the market, including FDI contract employees who pay no taxes in Ireland, zero-based employment and charities to run our country.
Cleggan, Co Galway
SF not the only ones to raise concerns over criminal court
I’m bemused that the Special Criminal Court is being used as a stick with which to beat Sinn Féin. Did not the Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights also express serious concerns about this court just a few years ago?
Kilcock, Co Meath
Minority needs a party that will represent our views
I am writing in response to Richard Talbot’s letter entitled ‘Aontú cheerleaders can’t save party from its electoral fate’ (January 29).
I would like to remind Mr Talbot that over 700,000 voted No to repeal the Eighth. As a minority we should have a party who holds our views – whether this be Mr Tobin’s party or not, time will tell.
As for alienating the 66.4pc who voted to repeal, there is a chance that some regret voting Yes. Attitudes do change. As we have already seen, it can work both ways.
Political stability has helped put us on the path of progress
In some neighbouring democracies over the past 100 years, like Britain and the US, a duopoly would be a reasonably accurate description of their government system, which alternates between Tories and Labour, Republicans and Democrats, but in a real duopoly there is very little cosiness in evidence (Colette Browne, Irish Independent, February 5).
In Germany and Austria, all chancellors since the war have either been Christian or Social Democrat, but there have frequently been third parties in government, such as the Liberals or Greens.
Our own system especially since coalition government became the norm 30 years ago, is completely open to multi-party participation, and has seen Labour, Clann na Poblachta, the PDs and the Greens as well as Independents and others in government.
It is open to any party old or new to win the trust and confidence of the electorate to the extent that they can put together and lead a government.
But hitherto Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, partners in democracy not in government, have provided an exceptional political stability that has enabled the centre to hold against potentially destructive populist alternatives from different ends of the political spectrum.
This has been one of the major achievements of an independent Ireland and provided a framework for a lot of the progress we have made in the past 100 years.
Tipperary, Co Tipperary
Hospital construction delays weren’t always the way here
Seamus McLoughlin (Letters, February 5) writes of the 10-year discussion on the new Children’s Hospital in Dublin, and of China recently completing a hospital in 10 days.
Irish politicians and construction workers had the ability in the past to dispense with bull. Noël Browne (1915-1997) served as health minister from 1948 to 1951. On the day work began on the construction of St James’s Hospital, in 1948, he stood on a pile of sand, saying to the massed construction staff: “We don’t need this hospital in a year or two, we need it as soon as possible.”
He opened the doors to a first-class building six months later.