THIRD SESSION, 11 MARCH – CONTEMPORARY IRISH POLITICS
By Andy Pollak
The third session was an introduction to the Irish political and electoral system and to Irish political parties and their ideologies and policies. The first half of the session was led by Joe O’Brien, Integration Outreach Officer with the Immigrant Council of Ireland. Joe talked about the importance of voting (pointing out that all immigrants, including asylum-seekers, have a vote in local elections at least); voting rights in Ireland for all categories of residents; the role of local authorities and local councillors (with examples of non-Irish councillors – amazingly, there are only two in the whole country); the constituencies and structures of the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas (Dail and Seanad); how general elections work, and some key political leaders. He then modelled a simple exercise to show how the Irish Proportional Representation-Single Transferable Vote electoral system works and listed some key websites to help people with voter registration and finding out details about political representatives (www.checktheregister.ie and www.whoismytd.com).
Joe was followed by Deaglán de Breadún, formerly political reporter and Northern editor with the Irish Times, and author of books on the Northern Ireland peace process and Sinn Fein. Deaglán spoke about how Ireland became independent from the United Kingdom; the conflict in Northern Ireland; the ideologies of the major Irish parties: Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Labour; the position of the various parties on refugees, asylum seekers and migrants; why there is no far-right, anti-immigration party in Ireland, and how the current minority government works.
The participants then divided into groups, with Joe, Deaglán and CoS Dublin core group members, to discuss Irish politics in more detail.