Why no Irish Christian Democrats?

readytogo

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It has always interested me that, aside from at least two micro-parties of that name, Ireland never developed a mainstream Christian Democrat party. For a considerable period of their existence both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael professed attachment to Catholic social ideals but, unlike their equivalents on continental Europe, neither sought to reconstruct society on Catholic Social Teaching. DeValera credited Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno for his massive slum clearance and rehousing programme, he established the Commission on Vocational Organisation (and ignored its report), his Senate was a purely token sop to same lobby. Fine Gael sit with the European Peoples Party in Europe and have long identified with some aspects of the Christian Democrat tradition. The Labour Court (established in 1946) and Social Partnership (which Haughey borrowed from Austria) are the few legacies of this tradition in Ireland. The European Union is also a product of Christian Democracy though the 'moralized market' vision of Schuman, de Gasperi and Adenauer has to a great extent been displaced by the Anglo-Saxon 'dog-eat-dog' model.

[During the 1975 referendum campaign on British EEC membership, Shirley Williams, later to co-found the Social Democratic Party, urged a yes vote on the basis that, "We will be joined to Europe, in which the Catholic religion will be the dominant faith and in which the application of the Catholic Social Doctrine will be a major factor in everyday political and economic life."]

In Tony Judt's History of Europe since 1945 he points out that

Christian Democracy avoided class-based appeals and emphasized instead social and moral reforms. In particular, it insisted on the importance of the family, a properly Christian theme with significant policy implications at a time when the needs of single-parent, homeless, and destitute families had never been greater. Thus Christian Democratic parties were ideally placed to capitalize on virtually every aspect of the post-war condition: the desire for stability and security, the expectation of renewal, the absence of traditional right-wing alternatives and the expectations vested in the state – for in contrast to conventional Catholic politicians of an earlier generation, the leaders of Christian Democratic parties and their more radical younger followers had no inhibitions about enrolling the power of the state in pursuing their goals. If anything, Christian Democrats of the first post-war years saw free market liberals rather than the collectivist Left as their main opponents and were keen to demonstrate that the modern state could be adapted to non-socialist forms of benevolent intervention​

Catholic social apostolates in this country totally collapsed after the Second Vatican Council, when the Vatican undertook a reconciliation with the modern liberal state. Catholic Ireland in recent years actually turned economically Protestant. As Mary Harney observed, we became closer to Boston than Berlin. This was accompanied by a great deal of arrogance. People on these boards are always complaining about the lack of a conservative/centre-right alternative. With the implosion of the Irish model, would not a (non-confessional) *continental* Christian Democrat conservative party be better suited to Ireland than an Anglo-American style conservative party?
 


Luigi Vampa

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Christian Socialists would seem a better fit in Ireland in this current financial climate
 

Hooch

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Fine Gael are Christian Democrats
The likes of Gay Mitchell maybe but most of it's newer members are pro-enterprise liberals with little interest in social issues.

We do have ther Christian Solidarity Party who have failed spectacularly in every election they've run and I believe Cóir are thinking of running some candidates in future.
 

Panopticon

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Countries tend to have a Christian Democrat party if they were invaded in WWII. We weren't.

Why? Because it was a good way to rehabilitate right-wing parts of the old regime under Catholic patronage. Often the right would have been compromised by collaboration with the Nazis.
 

irishpancake

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Fine Gael are Christian Democrats
Some may be, even the majority, but there is or was, a strong Social Democratic tradition there also, Just Society, Declan Costello and all that (Mongrel Foxes)

Garrett Fitz was on Pat Plank today claiming to be one, also Dukes would have claimed to be Social Democrat.

Just shows that FG is a catch-all populist party, which has no distinctive ideological basis for existence, except perhaps hatred for it's Civil War Republican opponents, Fianna Fáil, and Sinn Féin.

Kinda FF-lite.
 

supermonkey

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They call themselves Christian Democrats all the time. I am no FG supporter and I don't know what a Christian democrat is but they call themselves that.
 

Hooch

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Some may be, even the majority, but there is or was, a strong Social Democratic tradition there also, Just Society, Declan Costello and all that (Mongrel Foxes)

Garrett Fitz was on Pat Plank today claiming to be one, also Dukes would have claimed to be Social Democrat.

Just shows that FG is a catch-all populist party, which has no distinctive ideological basis for existence, except perhaps hatred for it's Civil War Republican opponents, Fianna Fáil, and Sinn Féin.

Kinda FF-lite.
Interesting claim from Fitzgerald seeing as he was one of the most liberal Taoisigh the country has had.
 

MuchToDo

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Our parties are all kind of centrist and each party has a spectrum of political leanings among their politicians... But...

*In general* Fine Gael are Christian Democrat even if they have some more right-wing members. But I think among European Christian Democrat parties it isn't too unusual for them to have some members that come up with ideas like sending teenagers to boot camp and so on, so FG are probably fairly typical Christian Democrats.

Labour are a mix of social democrats and less extreme socialists (some of the former Dem Left/Workers are pretty genuinely socialist nevertheless).

Fianna Failure are just a centrist populist party out to win each election and have power. Actually Labour are in a way going down this road with saying what some voters want to hear - but I'm happy enough if it means those voters vote Labour rather than FF. Unlike FF, Labour are unlikely to go as far as to destroy the country in their populism, whereas FF and their predecessors have done so on more than one occasion. FF have been influenced at certain times more by Christian Democrat or Social Democrat elements within their party. I don't lend credence to Bertie's comments on being a socialist though!

Sinn Féin are more left-wing socialist combined with authoritarianism. Given power they'd probably be something across between eastern block and Spain/Portugal under dictatorship. Or Cuba maybe. Certainly if you were vocal in criticism you might have a night-time visit.
 

Panopticon

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Unlike FF, Labour are unlikely to go as far as to destroy the country in their populism
Careful now.

-

To get back to the topic, why would Ireland want a political party affiliated to a genuinely dying political philosophy? The liberal and conservative right are doing much better than Christian democrats, even after the crisis. Christian democracy as such has only survived along the Amsterdam-Munich-Vienna axis, and the powerful Christian democrats of Italy and France collapsed in the fifteen years following the Cold War. Fine Gael's secular liberal conservatism is where it's at.
 

FloatingVoterTralee

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Also the Italian Christian Democrats were wiped out over corruption, clientelism and an economic crisis, so would we want to introduce these to the Irish political culture? :0
 

devnull

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There had been a debate within FG for decades between Social Democracy and Christian Democracy. The electorate resolved it in 2002 by wiping out almost the entire Social Democratic wing of the party.
It's worth noting that despite its name Christian Democracy isn't inherently religious - it borrowed a lot of philosophical ideas from Catholicism, but not the religious beliefs.

The reason that even our CD party isn't explicitly religious is because the dominant religion here was never threatened by any of the political parties, or anything really.
In other countries religious people were defending against Socialists, Liberals, Kulturkampfs, etc., but the Catholic Church in Ireland imploded without ever coming under significant external attack.

However, there are three factors that may change things:
1. With the liberalisation of our society, devout Catholics have started to feel marginalised.
2. In the upcoming election FF may get almost wiped-out in the more liberal parts of the country.
3. If their losses are serious enough, FF will need to find a new raison d'être.
There's a safe niche for a religious party that FF might be tempted to fill - it'd involve giving up all hope of regaining their dominant position, but would guarantee their continued existence.
 

Hooch

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There had been a debate within FG for decades between Social Democracy and Christian Democracy. The electorate resolved it in 2002 by wiping out almost the entire Social Democratic wing of the party.
It's worth noting that despite its name Christian Democracy isn't inherently religious - it borrowed a lot of philosophical ideas from Catholicism, but not the religious beliefs.

The reason that even our CD party isn't explicitly religious is because the dominant religion here was never threatened by any of the political parties, or anything really.
In other countries religious people were defending against Socialists, Liberals, Kulturkampfs, etc., but the Catholic Church in Ireland imploded without ever coming under significant external attack.

However, there are three factors that may change things:
1. With the liberalisation of our society, devout Catholics have started to feel marginalised.
2. In the upcoming election FF may get almost wiped-out in the more liberal parts of the country.
3. If their losses are serious enough, FF will need to find a new raison d'être.
There's a safe niche for a religious party that FF might be tempted to fill - it'd involve giving up all hope of regaining their dominant position, but would guarantee their continued existence.
I'm not entirely sure about this to be honest, the Behaviour Attitudes survey published in IT a few months ago indicated that the liberalisation is consistently high across age groups and urban/rural population. A theo-conservative party would likely deploy a lot of negative campaigning, especially against the gay community and recent history (Cóir's shennanigans) has shown that the Irish electorate takes poorly to this sort of thing.
 

QuizMaster

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Fine Gael joined the European Christian Democrats, now the European People's Party.

Religion and politics don't really mix anymore. We have the Christian Solidarity Party, but they get only a small handful of votes.
 

Fenian Óg

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What I was told in a politics lecture when a person asked that question was that in most countries a Christian Democratic party sprung up to defend and promote Christian values etc. and that in Ireland there was no need for this. In the early, and mid years of this state it was generally accepted by all the major parties that we were a christian country.
 

Trampas

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Fine Gael joined the European Christian Democrats, now the European People's Party.

Religion and politics don't really mix anymore.


Nonsense. Just a few years ago we had John Bruton sitting on the praesidium of the "Convention on the future of Europe" while doing his best (and failing) to introduce a reference to "god" in the European Constitution......alias the Treaty of Lisbon.
Meanwhile EU candidate state Turkey waits in the wings. Try tell them that religion and politics don't mix.
 

devnull

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I'm not entirely sure about this to be honest, the Behaviour Attitudes survey published in IT a few months ago indicated that the liberalisation is consistently high across age groups and urban/rural population. A theo-conservative party would likely deploy a lot of negative campaigning, especially against the gay community and recent history (Cóir's shennanigans) has shown that the Irish electorate takes poorly to this sort of thing.
BA have been surveying Irish trust in religious leaders for 20 years.
1990 -> 2010
Total confidence: 12% -> 3%
A great deal of confidence: 30% -> 10%
Mixed feelings: 37% -> 39%
Very little confidence: 13% -> 23%
No confidence at all: 7% -> 24%

The niche is probably not larger than 20% of the electorate, but it exists. If FF need to develop an identity beyond being a catch-all, national movement, party-of-power it would be one obvious starting point for them.

Undeniable homophobia would be a liability for any party, but there are more subtle ways of marketing such things, e.g. refusing to hire openly gay teachers is claimed to be a religious freedom for schools.
And Cóir are a massive embarrassment to the Catholic Church - for a much better model of Irish theo-conservativism, check out Senator Rónán Mullen
 

Mercurial

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I don't think it's true that religion and politics don't mix, but I think it is true that they ought not to. We live in a pluralist society where political parties should try to represent the interests of all citizens regardless of religious affiliation. If modern christian democrats can do that, then that's fair enough, but I don't know what the point of the 'christian' part would be in that case.
 

clontarfblue

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FG, in particular YFG, are strongly within the Christian Democratic fold. Within the EPP and YEPP they are recognised as leaders within the Christian Democratic groupings that exist within the EPP.

Even as recently as October, FG/YFG hosted a conference of Christian Democratic parties, which brought together senior members of the leading EU CD parties in Dublin.

At an EU level, both YFG and FG have fought for and proposed multiple pieces of Christian Democratic policy and resolutions. Notably, proposing legislation to respect the right of public schools to schools to display Christian symbols on cultural and historic grounds (ref to European Court of Human Rights attempts to ban Christian symbols in Italian schools.
 
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I think its quite simple. Ireland, as a state, was one big institutionalised Christian democracy. The Catholic church was practically a partner in governing; schools, hospitals etc. The church had it's own contract.
If you wanted into power, as a party, you better be Cathoholic. Ireland, without stating it, has been trying to move away from the 'Christian morals' that have until recently 'guided' our society.

In the past there was no need, and today peoeple don't want!
 

SevenStars

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