>Irish angles

>I had always assumed that Ireland’s Single Transferable Vote (STV) electoral system – a form of PR rarely used in West European contexts, except for things like British student union elections – was adopted on Irish independence to balance out political forces in a new democracy and give weight to local notables in rural areas, whose clientelistic networks tended to structure Ireland’s parties. In fact, today’s Irish Times reports in an article abour gerrymandering (easy to do with multi-member constituencies electing small numbers of MPs – TDs, I should say) – that STV was actually an parting gift of the British, enshrined in the Government of Ireland Act 1920 to protect the Ulster Unionist minority (yes, minority) in the island of Ireland – a political experiment that, of course, never took place as the Unionists (predictably) took the option of partition to make themseleves a local majority and adopted British style first-past-the-post guaranteeing them dominance in a religous-ethnic illiberal democracy until the suspension of direct rule.

Interesting, how once again there is a symbiosis between the politics of British Imperial retreat and Irish republicanism. This is neatly illustrated in the new play by Mary Kenny offering a fictionalized account of a meeting over brandy and cigars of Michael Collins and Winston Churchill (played by Mel Smith), which is currently in the news because cigars not lit on stage in Edinburgh under Scottish anti-smoking laws. British policy and the logjam around Irish Home rule effectively created Irish Republicanism as a political force, derailing the very different constitutional tradition of the Irish National Party. This was one of the few stories that the IT had in common with the Murdoch Times, which I also bought today.

The Irish Times mixture of old fashioned high quality journalist, interest – and very good coverage of East European politics (how many British newspapers had an editorial onthe Slovak elections?) and small country feel – restored my faith things Irish after an awful time seeing someone off an RyanAir flight to Brno at Stansted. RyanAir, surely the unacceptable unecological face of the Tiger economy, made its passengers, including families with small children kids stand sweltering in 60-70 long queues for a whole hour while very small number of staff slowly checked them all in. Naturally the flight was late being called and late taking off

When they finally made it to the front of the queue passengers were greeted by the slogan “Ryan Air – the On-time Airline”. I just about enough Irish to distinguish the Taoiseach from the Tánaiste , but I think Póg mahone is more or less the right response here. Not an expression, you’ll find in the Irish Times, I suspect…

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