Ideological similarities between FF and FG

 

Sir, – There are many thousands of citizens who simply cannot reconcile their circumstances with the picture that Stephen Collins paints of our current position, as he again reaches to find cause to laud our two right-of-centre political parties (“Overlap between FG and FF good for Irish democracy,” Opinion, December 20th).

Assessing the failure, or otherwise, of a political system is hardly a difficult task.

Plato offered some wise words in this regard which are worth looking at. “Where there is no excess of either riches or poverty to be found, that place is governed by the noblest of principles”.

The fact is our society is riven from head to toe and that has arisen as a direct result of policies both these parties pursue.

Their failures are suffered by many each and every day who, far from thanking their “lucky stars”, despair as time goes on with no indication of a willingness from either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil to change direction and govern all citizens.

In particular, regardless of who is in office, it is of the utmost urgency now that Government stop conducting public affairs for private advantage. – Yours, etc,

JIM O’SULLIVAN,

Rathedmond,

Sligo.

Sir, – Stephen Collins’s defence of the immense ideological similarity between the two parties which have alternated in government for the entire history of the State, albeit with coalition partners, considerably mischaracterises its effects on the Irish political system (Opinion, December 20th).

He observes that the division of the British House of Commons between the left and the right “has left both the Conservatives and Labour at the mercy of intransigent extremists of both hues” and suggests that a “political cleavage based on their approach to Europe would make more sense.”

Without doubting that assessment, surely the irrelevance of old political cleavages as new ones emerge is not an argument for the democratic merits of having no meaningful or principled political divide between the viable governing parties.

The fact that politics in Britain, and indeed elsewhere, may be said to be undergoing a transition to new axes of political competition does not mean that the previous focus of debate was always inherently obstructive.

Furthermore, while Mr Collins rightly praises the fact that Ireland remained democratic continuously through a century when many other countries did not, it is not clear that meaningful political competition along more principled lines would have undermined this aspect of our good fortune.

Mr Collins also highlights the ease with which the two main parties struck a deal after an apparently inconclusive election result in 2016.

While this can also be praised and contrasted favourably with intransigence in coalition formation in Spain or indeed in Northern Ireland, instituting a government would likely have been even easier if they had accepted their similarities and already merged into a single party. – Yours, etc,

CHRISTOPHER

McMAHON,

Oxford, UK.