The term REALPOlITIK is one I remember from history class in school.It conjures up images of shady negotiations across the iron curtain where ethics and ideology came second to preservation of uneasy alliances. REALPOLITIK is the difference between what we would like to do and what we need to do. The German term defines a form of politics based on practical and material things. That's not to say it is a bad form of politics. Idealism doesn't buy the dinner,address the national deficit,or placate the trade unions.
Our coalition government is preserving an uneasy alliance. The Greens have a left-centric secularist,post-modern and pro-environmental view of the world,Bless them. Fianna Fail's nationalist core is tempered by three generations of power broking, global hustling and prioritising commercial growth over moral absolutes. Dog Breeding Legislation is well down the list of priorities for a party which used to draw votes from affording special status to Ireland's racing, coursing, hunting tradition. Fianna Fail will reposition our country in a global marketplace as a pro-enterprise economy. In return the Greens will impliment civil partnership reform, animal welfare reform, carbon offset credits, water upgrades and support fiscal austerity measures which international bondholders want.And Social advancement will ultimately emerge from difficult compromise.
The full text of the 2010 Dog Breeding Legislation is well crafted political reality, combining as it does measures to raise significant revenue from the dog industry and measures to satisfy the ideals of dog welfare and population control. Department of Finance needs revenue. The black economy in Ireland in 2009 was estimated at six billion euro. Insiders like me know that the dog trade exists in this black hole of untaxed cashflow. Now in our hour of discontent, it's time to tax some of this black hole while simultaneously reforming one of Ireland's animal welfare problems, namely the hitherto unregulated puppy farm problem
The Croke Park agreement is a good example of REALPOLITIK in that it at least keeps the country functioning and our civil servants off the streets. Brian Lenihan's last budget was a brilliant example of REALPOLITIK. His first budget most definitely was not. Being politically tactless and badly prespun it elicited protests until its most austere penuries were reversed. But the most recent budget which was full of fiscal austerity and brought reduced prosperity to one and all was grudgingly accepted with barely a whimper of protest. And such is our understanding that the country needs reality politics that we have already resigned ourselves to the next budget of expenditure cuts.The Santa Claus politics of "fantasy benchmarking" and "who wants to be a millionaire social partner" are over.
The British always applied the logic of REALPOLITIK to their colonial rulings. Better to swiftly slaughter a few hundred unruly gurkhas and indulge the Maharajah's fetish for victorian china than destabilise an entire area strategic for tea, rubber or slaves.The history of Ireland's famine is a legacy to REALPOLITIK. As Ireland's wheat and beef left to feed the empire, Westminster's awkward quandary about what to do with a starving peasantry was solved by their cheap and easy exit on fetid ships.
As a small ungovernable colony, the Irish learned politics from a Machiavellian empire which once ruled half the globe. Surprising then, that Britain's new Con-Dem government has launched straight into the minefield of electoral reform, headlong into disagreement over how and what way a lukewarm electorate should vote next time. Shrewd politics would be to focus all energy on the depressed economy and all reformist enmity on Labour's wasteful expenditure. At least for the first full year. Instead Nick Clegg's overreach towards the holy grail of proportional representative voting will end in tears as Prime Minister Cameron hasnt even the tact to support his coalition partner in public. Survival instincts in Irish politics are stronger. Cameron could learn a litle reality politics from Cowen and Lenihan's handling of our banks, trade unions, the ECB and our US investors over the last 18 months.
The Irish do REALPOLITIK very well. We have a history of coalition governments held together by tenuous promise and bartered favour. The ultimate exponent of REALPOLITIK was the most cunning of them all whose singular defining triumph was to deliver the Good Friday agreement. The boy republican from Drumcondra who gave the Reverend Paisley a gift of a Jacobite Musket on the battlefield of the Boyne, finally stalled sectarian conflict in Ireland by doing what politicians often need to do as a means to an end. Real political success is the acheivement of impossible compromise. Ahern, the son of a Cork IRA man acheived that one great thing on Good Friday 10th April 1998 by painstaking brokering and building relationships to dilute ideology. Fianna Fail have always done REALPOLITIK very well; progress by process and by compromise.
But the Dog Breeding Legislation? Now watered down by default so that opprtunities of revenue gathering, regulation and welfare improvement are lost for now. Fianna Fail are hardly dealing with the UVF this time.Romantic Ireland is dead and gone surely. But REALPOLITIK is with Ahern back in St Lukes, Drumcondra. Have there been Paramilitary Continuity Dog coursers and Beagle baiters darkly threatening backbenchers lest the 400 euro six bitch levy pass into law? Will we have to summon John De Chastelain to Ireland's potholed rural seats of greyhound power to clamber into battered transits and up to Paddyjoes to check who has seven bitches and who has only five OR who bought their own microchips CHAPE off the vanman at the dogtrack last night? The party that wore down the provos have given in to the dogmen!
During todays debate in the Seanad I heard one remark amidst the confusion over breeding bitches and civil partners "Anyone would think Tipperary was full of homophobic, guntoting, deer hunters". Its not, of course. The country has changed. The appetite for regulation of hunting, for conservation debates, for animal welfare advancements has fanned out across the eastern seaboard into the midlands of Ireland with the migrations of the last ten years. Bord na GCon or should that be Bord Na Con have pulled a two fold conjob. They have convinced the government by vocal lobby that their view is still a majority view in rural Ireland and they have successfully pleaded the poor mouth to avoid paying taxes which the rest of us may well now have to pay. An opportunity lost. government TDs? You've been Bord Na Conned!