Does principle have a role in modern politics?

Eamon Gilmore was unequivocal on RTE radio this morning that Labour in government would not reverse the ban on Stag Hunting.  The Fine gael manifesto is equally straight talking in the Community section of its manifesto that Fine Gael will reverse the ban on Stag Hunting.

Is it possible that this could be an issue to bring down a government?  Surely not you think at a time when that legislation is passed, to broad public approval and there are more important things to concern government such as poverty, unemployment emigration and the banks.

Never underestimate the power of principle in politics.  The Spring Tide coalition of 1992-1994 fell on the fact that Fianna Fáil called Labour’s bluff over the appointment of Harry Whelehan to the Supreme Court.  Labour ministers withdrew from the cabinet meeting that was to appoint him and then refused to go back into government even when Albert Reynolds did a u-turn and forced the Judge of one day to resign.

The reasons were never fully clarified but the murky depths of church influence, morality, and Whelehan’s previous actions on clerical abuse allegations were all aired as likely reasons for the principled stance taken by Dick Spring.

In the modern era it is unlikely that such complex dilemma’s would not be flushed out in advance.  That might have prevented the actions taken that day by Reynolds, and perhaps altered the nature of Irish politics.  Bertie Ahern after all was the principal beneficiary of the collapse of the Reynolds leadership.

It just shows though that principle – which cynics say has little place in real politics – may yet be tested if the pattern of the polls is reflected in a Fine gael – Labour coalition after February 25th.


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