Some reflections on Monday’s presidential election and blasphemy referendum

On the surface it’s a landslide for that puffed up little fake-socialist gobshite Michael D. Higgins. But, in reality, the vote is an indication of no-confidence in the political system – or at least in the office of the presidency. Less than 44% of voters actually voted in the presidential contest  The post of president – along with the Seanad – should be abolished.

This is unlikely to happen within the context of capitalism however as these two institutions are integral parts of the system of interlocking institutions, and checks and balances, by which the ruling class rules in the southern neo-colonial state.

The two positives I took from the presidential election were that a majority of people didn’t vote and that ‘Poppy’ Ni Riada only got 7%. Not so good that the Trump imitator got 20% of the vote. But keep in mind, given the numbers that didn’t vote, that’s less than 10% of the actual electorate.

Presidential elections have never been hugely popular.  The first contest, back in 1945, got the best turnout, but it was still only 63%.  The pattern has been downhill since then with occasional slight rises.

It’s interesting to see what has happened with turnout with the little kiss-arse currently occupying the post.  In 2011, when he still had some left credentials, the turn out was 56.1%.  After seven years of Higgins, the turnout on Monday was 43.87%.  In the poorer areas, the vote was even more down.  It looks like the turnout in Jobstown, one of the poorest parts of Dublin, might have been below 10%!

Higgins won by a country mile because he was the establishment candidate, backed by Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour.  But even with this backing, allowing him to win easily on the first count, his numerical vote was just under 823,000, compared to just over a million in the second count in 2011.  (Given that in 2011 he faced opposition by Fine Gael and a Fianna Fail-backed candidate, which he didn’t this time, it makes more sense to compare his second round vote in 2011 with his first round vote rather than the two first-round votes – because of the opposition candidates backed by the two main parties in 2011, his first preference vote then was just over 700,000 and he got in with transfers from Fine Gael and Sinn Fein.)

The result on Monay must have been a big disappointment for the Shinners.  In 2011, they ran Martin McGuinness, someone totally associated with the IRA and its long war with the British and 6-county states (and an original history of fighting the southern state too).  He got just over 243,000 first preference votes.  This time round they ran the ultra-respectable Liadh Ní Riada who took just under 94,000 votes.  The Sinn Fein percentage fell from 13.7 in 2011 to just 6.4 on Monday.

Liadh Ní Riada is hardly an obscure figure either.  She is a Sinn Fein MEP and the daughter of the late composer Sean O Riada.

In 2014, the Shinners won over 323,000 (19.5%) votes in the European parliament elections in the south.  Ní Riada herself won over 125,000 first preference votes in the three-member South constituency.  So, four years on, she has got far less votes in the whole of the south of Ireland as she got in just one constituency in the 2014 Euro election.

In the 2014 local body elections, held the same day as the Euro election, SF got a bit over 258,000 votes.

Sinn Fein’s less than 94,000 votes in the presidential election is also a poor performance measured against the 2016 general election result.  In that election, the Shinners received over 295,000 votes (13.8%).

In other words, a big majority of people who voted Shinner in the 2011 presidential election, the 2014 European parliament elections, the 2014 local body elections and the 2016 general election decided not to vote Shinner on Monday.  Ní Riada’s statement that she would be fine with wearing a poppy on Poppy Day, a great example of their abandonment of republicanism and designed to make further voting inroads into the middle class, seems to have gone down like a bowl of vomit,  The new, thoroughly sanitised, respectable middle class Sinn Fein delivered a disaster.

I think the conclusion that will be drawn by party managers is that the road forward is to become even less republican and speed up the process of complete bourgeoisification.

Meanwhile, the blasphemy referendum was another big win for social progress and secularism. The vote was roughly 65% ‘yes’ (remove blasphemy) to 35% ‘no’.

There now seems to be a pretty much two-thirds to one-third division in southern Irish society around social progress and secularism. The % in this vote was really close to that in the referendum earlier this year on whether to remove the constitutional ban on abortion and pretty close to the percentages for and against gay marriage in the 2015 referendum. The % of those who voted saying ‘yes’ to the removal of the blasphemy clause and ‘yes’ to removal of the ban on abortion is a bit up on the % (62-38) which said ‘yes’ to gay marriage, so I think the social progressives are continuing to grow in strength.

At the same time, I don’t think all the news is good. One of the problems is that a lot of the forces favouring secularisation and social progress are actually very right-wing on economic questions and politically pro-imperialist. This is what happens when revolutionary movements, like Irish republicanism, *fail* to lead on these questions. A vacuum opens up that will be filled by economically right-wing and politically pro-imperialist elements who want to modernise not because they favour human emancipation but because they want to integrate more closely into the imperialist world and are embarrassed by Irish backwardness.

Back in the early 1980s the then president of Sinn Fein (and member of the IRA Army Council) Ruairi O Bradaigh suggested that the Movement initiate a campaign in the south for the right to divorce. It was actually the so-called “northern radicals”, like Adams, who got in the way of that. If militant republicans had’ve championed the right to divorce, homosexual rights, and secularism, the whole political landscape of the south of Ireland could be different and the forces for national liberation and socialism would be a lot bigger and stronger and the bourgeois latecomers to social reform a lot weaker.

Posted on November 3, 2018, in Irish politics today, Provos - then and now, Public events - Ireland, twenty-six counties. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. SF has a history of tacking to the wind when necessary. You say the presidential result will mean they will move further to the Right. Experience tells me they are just as likely to move in the other direction, for survival’s sake. The underlying reality of the SF party is that they have no defining left/right ideology, only ambition. And that will lead them wherever the votes are to be found,,,,,,

    • “The underlying reality of the SF party is that they have no defining left/right ideology, only ambition. And that will lead them wherever the votes are to be found. . .” I agree totally. But I think *they think* the votes are to be found among respectable middle class people and that will make them want to be seen as even more middle-of-the-road. Of course, especially in the wake of that by-election in south-west Dublin a few years back, they do have to cover their left buttock from the Trotskyists (and left independents). But, at present, they seem to be trying to make nice with FG.

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