Unlike their British counterparts, Irish politicians have – by and large – chosen consensus politics to deal with Brexit.
As we face into another week of certain turmoil at Westminster, the pro May-deal wing of the Tory party has been urging MPs to put the interests and greater good of the nation before personal ambition. In the wake of a rake of point-scoring and mud-slinging matches within both the Tory and Labour Parties, few expect Teresa May to achieve the results she’s been pushing for.
As for the DUP, well, Arlene Foster and co have chosen to ignore the voices of business leaders along with the population’s pro-remain result. Instead, the party remains firmly rooted in Unionism, continuing to condemn the backstop as the ultimate red flag. The party’s unique position of power – gifted by the Prime Minister by way of an unnecessary election – has allowed the DUP to play a greater, than appropriate, role in the Brexit negotiations.
No Sign of Consensus Politics in the UK
Throughout the history of politics, parties have often formed cross-party alliances to formulate an approach to major issues. Perhaps, if Labour and the Conservatives had agreed to deal with Brexit by means of consensus politics, the current mess could have been prevented. But consensus politics is hard to come by in Westminster. Although murmurings of cross-party initiatives in the House of Commons emerge rather frequently, no significant consensus grouping has come forth. On the contrary, both the Tory and Labour party are at loggerheads – hence the turmoil.
The Main Political Parties in Ireland have opted for Consensus Politics
Politicians in Ireland have taken an entirely different approach. The minority government lead by Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party is propped up by a deal done with Fianna Fail. Historically, the two parties may not be politically very different, however, a coalition between them remains unthinkable.
After the election in 2016, Fine Gael was unable to form a government. After lengthy discussions, the party entered a confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fail, the main opposition party. Having agreed on major policy issues, the two parties undertook to collaborate especially in view of upcoming Brexit negotiations.
This confidence and supply arrangement was renewed late last year. In essence, Fianna Fail promised not to topple the government to strengthen Ireland’s stance in the Brexit negotiations.
Even Sinn Fein, a party politically a million miles apart from Leo Varadkar’s government, has sought to strengthen and encourage the government in the Brexit negotiations rather than drilling holes in its approach to it. The remaining representatives, a mix of independents and small parties, have also played a supportive rather than destructive role where Brexit issues were concerned.
Healing Divisions by Means of Census Politics
The divisions in Britain are stark and ubiquitous. This is a society in dire need of healing. But if the government and opposition continue squabbling to score points, it is hard to see how British society could leave its own fragmentation behind.