With an election coming up here in Ireland, I’m still not entirely decided who I’ll vote for. My constituency is Cork East, so I have a good enough choice. My views tend to be slightly left of centre liberal with a strong secularist streak. I want a government that will invest in strong, effective public services and I’m ok with paying this out of USC if this can be achieved. I think we can have a top class education system here along with a health system we can be proud of. However, I believe that public services must be run efficiently. You can’t just throw money at the issue without challenging the underlying structures and systems (and recognising that huge private sector investment may be necessary to achieve this). I want separation of church and state. It’s high time we removed church involvement from public schooling. I’m also very much on the side of the people who want to see Article 8th and blasphemy laws removed from our constitution. Ireland should be open to all cultures and people, but our laws do not recognise this. On a local level, broadband had still not been sorted out in rural areas. This is incredible.

So here’s my thinking. 

Fianna Fail are a no. It’s the backwards conservative / back scratching party it always has been that still thinks the Catholic Church are great. Mícheál Martin might be one of the stronger leaders in a poor enough field, but his party base is still in denial. Oh, and did I mention they bankrupted the country? I’ll pass, thanks.

Sinn Fein are a definite no. Notwithstanding the local controversy with Sandra McLennan, they are ambiguous when it comes to justice and their economic policies are thoroughly Marxist. They suffer from a cult of personality regarding Gerry Adams and they are unapologetically populist. They’ll promise anything for a vote. It’s hard to separate them from the party they were during the troubles – a party of spin and lies, not to mention the occasional murder. They would be a disaster for the country.

Independents are a no. While independents are often earnest and hard working at a local level, they are not good for a stable government and they have little interest in wider issues of running a country. They are populist almost by definition. 

Labour: it’s complicated. Many of the policies align with my views. They are liberal and relatively responsible when it comes to government. They have taken difficult, unpopular stances which, to my mind, is not a bad thing. I think however that they suffer from a lack of leadership. They possibly should have taken stronger stances in government which is hurting them now. Sean Sherlock has not made much of an impact in this part of the county, so it’s been difficult to assess his record. I’ll probably vote for them, but exactly which preference, I’ve yet to decide.

Fine Gael: it’s complicated. They can claim a lot of credit for making deeply unpopular decisions which, nevertheless, pulled this country out of the enormous hole dug by the previous administration. They have also enacted policies that went against their natural base. They are ambiguous about Article 8, but I don’t think they’ll have much choice but to put it to a referendum in the next government. The local TD, David Stanton, is a hard worker and personable man. On balance, I may vote for them, but I’m unsure of preference.

Social Democrats. They are a new party formed from a disenfranchisement with current government direction. They are liberal and interested in maintaining a strong investment in public services. Their leader, Stephen Donnelly, is quite impressive and the local candidate Ken Curtin comes across as very sincere, very hard working, with a lot of integrity. I like the direction and I wish them well as an interesting new party in Irish politics. Worth a punt.

Renua: Are you kidding me? A backwards, pro-clerical, anti-choice, lock ’em up and throw away the key party. They seem to thrive on fear and loathing. Yuck.

Inevitably, the next government is likely to be a hotch potch of different groupings. The most stable mix would be FG/FF, but there’s a strong possibility we might see an FF/SF lead government too, which would be a great pity, but at least it would give us a chance to see how Sinn Fein perform when they have to make tough choices. Another, even worse outcome is an SF lead knesset of small parties and independents. Wouldn’t last to Christmas, but it could be fascinating if it were not for the fact that we would have to pay the price for it, however temporary. Personally I feel an FG/Lab/SD government would be the best in the circumstances, but I don’t see it happening.