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View from Dublin: It's already happened here

By Brendan Keenan

Published 29/11/2016

Could it happen here? That was the question after the Brexit vote and, especially, the Trump victory. To which the answer might be: it already has. Like Tolstoy on marriages, every country shows its unhappiness in its own way.

The United States is effectively a two-horse race for the presidency, and anything can happen in a two-horse race.

In Britain, the horses have to be "first-past-the-post", which is normal in horse races but peculiar in elections. It is reckoned that, under a PR system, the right-wing Ukip would have won 83 seats in the last poll. Instead, it got one.

So the UK's crises play out inside the political parties. Ours, fed through the most proportional voting system of all, fractured the parties.

There are other differences. The decline of traditional industries in Ireland happened decades ago - although it was extremely painful and produced some very turbulent politics. More puzzling - although gratifying - is that Ireland has not displayed the same tensions over immigration so evident elsewhere.

Even if results differ from country to country, the underlying pattern is the same; the rejection of incumbents and those associated with them. Here this feeling has turned up in an unexpected place - among public sector workers.

The trade unions have never, in my experience, mounted so furious an assault in pursuit of their aims; not even in the dark days of the 1980s when huge trade union protest marches were at least in support of well-argued policies on the distribution of resources.

There is no pretence at argument this time; merely demands and claims of entitlement.

Belfast Telegraph

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