Article Published in the Irish Examiner, July 6th 2015.

There remains a lack of a coherent, credible, non-establishment, political alternative that can represent the public mood for change. Recent opinion polls show once again there is nothing certain about the outcome of the next general election. There remains significant political volatility and continuing anti-establishment sentiment which appears to have not yet found a new political home.

We should not be surprised by this, as there have been a number of events that point to growing numbers of ordinary people expressing their desire for social and political change. For example, the Marriage Equality referendum pointed to a citizen-led, ground up, process of positive and progressive change that goes beyond what existing politics represents. The water protests contain similar elements of a community-led, grassroots, movement of opposition.

But it wasn’t just opposition, protesters explain they are seeking a “different type” of Ireland, a more “caring Ireland” where people are prioritised over ‘the economy’ and are given “real decision making” about major policy. The water protests continue at a community level and we should not forget that this remains one of the largest social movements in Ireland since independence. But will this unprecedented popular mood and demand for fundamental change be expressed and represented in the coming general election?

The longer-term trend in the opinion polls since shows a move away from the traditional parties (Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour) who have a combined core vote (when undecided voters are included) of as low as 40%. Furthermore, the combined first preference vote of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the Carlow Kilkenny byelection was just 48% — a minority of the first preference vote. To put the magnitude of the decline in support for the traditional parties in context, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil received 68% of the vote in 2007 but just 53.4% in 2011. Labour support has collapsed. The most recent polls show the surge in support for non-traditional politics in the form of independents. But they also point to the failure of existing alternatives such as Renua, the Greens and the radical left Socialist Workers Party (People Before Profit Alliance) and the Socialist Party (Anti-Austerity Alliance) to win voters.

Part of this is also down to division among the left, for example, in the byelection, the two socialist parties, as in the European elections, stood candidates against each other.

Sinn Féin also face many challenges and appear static with around 20% of the popular vote which leaves a major gap for them to form a government. So unless some new political alternative emerges that is prepared to work alongside them in an “alternative” government, Sinn Féin will have to choose between long-term opposition or putting Fianna Fáil back into government. There remains, therefore, a lack of a coherent and credible, non-establishment, political alternative that can represent the mood for change.
Unless such an alternative emerges, the general election will result in little substantive change in policy direction. We could see a coalition government of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, Renua, and some independents along with what remains of the Labour Party.

But there is no major economic or social policy difference between these parties. They all prioritise making Ireland “the best small country in the world in which to do business” with the result that society comes second place. They have all imposed austerity, refused to stand up to Europe for justice on our debt, privatised public services, worsened poverty and inequality, and did little to deliver political reform.

The government parties have a strong argument that they have delivered an economic recovery and are returning money into people’s pockets through the budget. And to maintain the fragile recovery people should vote for stability and not any alternatives that might jeopardise this.

However, this ignores the impact of austerity policies and the Government’s decision to focus on tax cuts rather than spending increases on areas like housing, health, and welfare.

Any serious political challenge will have to speak up for the groups still excluded from the recovery and provide positive and inclusive solutions that can achieve a fair recovery for everyone.

The grassroots approach in which the referendum campaign and the water movement have operated shows that if the general election is going to be fought using the traditional ways of doing politics in Ireland, then little will change. They suggest that something new and dramatic is required to “change the rules of the game” and empower citizens to create a new type of democratic, people-driven politics. This is what the successful new political movements of Podemos and Barcelona Together have done in recent elections in Spain. They have developed a new politics of the left that advocates human rights and democracy through citizen participation.

Any new political alternative should draw on this and lead in political reform by empowering and involving ordinary people who have never been involved in politics before through citizens’ assemblies, public forums, online input into policy development, and pioneering policies that will deliver genuine democratic reform such as citizen-initiated referendums.

Rory Hearne

We thought it might be useful to share a timeline of online television programmes and videos about the crisis in Ireland which we’ve assembled for a third year undergraduate module we co-teach, Geographies of the Crisis.  We have tried to use official channels where possible, otherwise the links are to uploaded YouTube videos that have been created by others.  Most of the videos relate to the crisis in general and banking, property and migration issues in particular, as well social movements and protest.  They all concern Ireland rather than the wider European and global financial crisis.  Over time we’ll keep adding to the resource.

Documenting and Explaining the Crisis

Prime Time debate.  What an earth is happening to house prices?  David McWilliams versus Austin Hughes, 16 October 2003, Part 1 , Part 2

Futureshock – Property Crash RTE programme on future of housing market, 16th April 2007

Prime Time on property bubble: soft landing or crash?  Morgan Kelly, UCD, and Jim Power, Friends First, debate the state of the property market in April 2007

Bertie Ahern tells naysayers to commit suicide, July 3, 2007

Primetime Investigates – “The Pressure Zone, Planning and land zoning, November 26th 2007

Prime Time on Bank Guarantee, Discussion by Brendan Keenan, Morgan Kelly, Kevin McConnell, 30 Sept 2008

Prime Time, Pat Neary, The Financial Regulator, 18th October 2008

Al Jazeera, Immigrants hit by Irish downturn, 26th November 2008

Primetime Special, RTE.  Banking crisis, 12th February 2009

RTE, How We Blew the Boom, documentary, March 2009 (YouTube version)

ABC Australia, Ireland feels full impact of global financial crisis, 4th March 2009

Prime Time Investigates, RTE. After the Goldrush.  The impact of the recession on ordinary families. 25th May 2009

Prime Time, NAMA 30th April 2009, 13th Aug 2009, 17th Sept 2009 and 3rd November 2009

Joseph Stiglitz on Nama, Nobel Prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz gives damning indictment of NAMA on RTE’s Prime Time, October 7th, 2009.

Prime Time Special, Emigration, 12th November 2009

RTE Primetime Investigates on the banking system: Meet the Bankers, 21st December 2009 (on YouTube, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Primetime, RTE on debt and mortgage arrears, 2nd February 2010 (on YouTube, Part 1 , Part 2)

France 24 report, Leaving home: young Irish find the grass is greener 24th March 2010

Al Jazeera, Irish economy in sharp contraction, 26 Mar 09

RTE, Aftershock, week-long series of programmes seeking to capture the transformation over the previous 18 months, to take stock, and to try to identify ways to recover.

RTE, Ghostland documentary (part of Aftershock), 9th May 2010 (on YouTube, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

BBC News, ghost estate reports, May 2010 (report 1, report 2)

Prime Time, RTE, The property trap.  15th July 2010

Prime Time, RTE, A haunted landscape, 29th July 2010,

Reuters, ghost estates report, 30th July 2010

Prime Time, RTE, Second anniversary retrospective on bank guarantee scheme, 28th September 2010

Prime Time, RTE, Fiscal Flatline.  19th October 2010

TV3 News, Ghost Estates – Riverside Portarlington, Nov 2010

AFP, Ghost estates haunt Irish landscape, 26th November 2010

CNN report, Ireland haunted by ghost estates, 30th Sept 2010

Prime Time, RTE, Troika arrive The European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund have arrived in Dublin, 18 November 2010

Journeyman Pictures, Let Them Eat Cheese, November 2010

BBC News, World Have Your Say, Ireland economic special, 19th November 2010 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Prime Time, RTE, EU/IMF and Anglo Look at the fine print in the EU/IMF deal and how Anglo Irish Bank brought a country to the brink, 30th November 2010

France 24, Irish crisis: the spectre of emigration, 30th November 2010

ABC Australia, Journeyman Pictures, Irish Despair, 6th December 2010

Fintan O Toole, Fintan O’Toole on Ireland – SpunOut.ie Interviews 13th December, 2010,

Euronews, Ireland’s ghost estates, 10th December 2010

Prime Time Investigates.  Carry on Regardless, 21 Dec 2010.  How developers lives have been affected or not by the crash. (YouTube, Part 1, Part 2)

BBC Panorama, How to blow a fortune (Ireland’s real estate bust), 21st February 2011

ABC Australia, Journeyman Pictures, Goodbye My Ireland, 28th February 2011

Geophiles report, Ghost towns, 30th March 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Home Truths on negative equity, 5th April 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Bank Rupture, Nyberg Report, 19th April 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Regeneration, May 3rd 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Quinn versus Anglo, 14th June 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Namaland.  6th September 2011 (on YouTube)

PressTV, On the Edge, Irish economic crisis, 23rd September 2011

Immanuel Wallerstein, Capitalism Collapse? ‘Cash grab system cannot survive storm’, 9th October 2011

US Debt Crisis – Perfectly Explained

Prime Time, RTE, What lies beneath.  Priory Hall, 18th October 2011

AFP, Ireland considers new law to reposess ghost estates, 24th October 2011

Joseph Stiglitz, Lessons from Iceland’s Economic Crisis, 26th October, 2011

RTWEthepeople, Decisions that Shaped the Irish Economy with Conor McCabe, 30th October 2011

INET Economics, Stephen Kinsella – Irish Crisis Demands New Economic Thinking, 29th November 2011

Prime Time Special, One year on the bailout, 28th November 2011

Joseph Stiglitz on Ireland, Stiglitz on Ireland, 6th December 2011

Prime Time, RTE, Troika Time, January 19th 2012

Al Jazeera, Collapse of the Celtic Tiger January 19th 2012

Punk Economics, David McWilliams series, January-July 2012 (Lesson 1: Crisis in Ireland and Europe; Lesson 2: ECB’s massive cash for trash scheme; Lesson 3: Playing games with liquidity; Lesson 4: Irish Referendum Preview; Lesson 5: China Panics, US ‘Recovers’ and Germany Flinches

Prime Time, RTE, New Departures on emigration, March 15th 2012

Prime Time, RTE, The Mahon Report – The Tribunal, March 2012 (on YouTube in general, re. Bertie Ahern)

Robert Skidelsky, The Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on the Future of International Relations, April 2012

IIEA, Karl Whelan on Ireland’s Bank Debt and What Can be Done About It? – 29 June 2012

Tom Healy, Nevin Economic Research Institute, Claiming Our Future Launch Plan B, 25th June 2012

Longford Leader, First NAMA property demolished, 24th July 2012

Social movement/protest

BBC report on protests, February 21st 2009:

The March – Documenting the march against the IMF bailout, 2nd December, 2010,

PRI: Ireland’s woes through the lens of art, 7th Dec 2010

Pretty Vacant, PrettyvacanT, Permission to LandUnused and Unloved, Shoot the Tiger, April 2011-July 2012

Darragh Byrne Videography, Occupy Dame Street, 22nd October 2011;

Spectacle of Defiance and Hope in Dublin, 3rd December 2011,

Naomi Klein, Fake “Debt Crisis/Bankruptcy”: We are NOT Bankrupt! Tax the Rich! 7th October 2011,

RTWEthepeople, Audit NAMA, 23rd Nov 2011

Irishtimes.com, €1.4bn house is a work of art, 24th January 2012

Irish Times.com ‘Occupy Dame Street’ protesters removed, 8th March 2012

Romantic Ireland, Romantic Ireland from the Streets, 17th March 2012

Dole TV, Unlock NAMA, 4th April 2012

Mandate: Vote No to the Austerity Treaty, 21 May 2012

Irishtimes.com, Claiming our Future, Plan B, 26th June 2012

TASC: Fr Peter McVerry: New economic model must involve a more just sharing of power as well as wealth, June 2012

Rap Nuacht na hEireann, Episode 1, 24th July 2012

Radio Documentaries

BBC Radio 4, Olivia O´Leary on economic crisis and post-crash identity, June 12, 2009 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

BBC Radio 4, Dan O’Brien, Bailout Boys go to Dublin, 24th April 2011

Newstalk, Deserted village Documentary by Jane Ruffino.  24th March 2012

If you have any suggestions for other programmes/clips to include please put in a link in the comments box.

Rob Kitchin and Rory Hearne