You would have to have been living in a hole, and a hole with no internet access or phone signal, to have missed the fact that Ireland has been in a bit of trouble lately. The economy’s screwed, the government banjaxed and there’s talk of revolution (just talk mind you.) Well finally there’s been a change and on Friday the Irish people took to the polling booths and voted in a new Government.
I was one of the few journalists in the country who wasn’t deployed to a count centre to watch the implosion of Fianna Fail play out in real time. My job’s a little on the specialised side so I watched the election unfold along with the rest on the country, on TV, radio and Twitter. They’re still counting the final votes today and in a week or so we’ll be watching different talking heads explaining why everything’s shagged on the nightly news.
It would be nice to believe that something will change, that this will be a much needed new beginning for a country on it’s knees, but I don’t believe in Santa Claus either. For the next few weeks ambitious noises will be made and great plans will be discussed but it remains to be seen what actual, real change takes place.
For very pertinent reasons, everyone’s focused on the economy at the moment but I’m not a political hack or a business journalist. I watch the cases that come through the courts, usually the criminal ones. The Dáil circus doesn’t often encroach on my daily work. That’ll continue to be the case with the new lot for the most part.
But there are exceptions. Every now and then I find myself writing about things that have happened over there. In recently years that’s usually been down to knee jerk pieces of legislation that need their rough corners smoothed by passage through the courts. Most recently there was the case of Rebecca French, a young mother of two, whose badly beaten body was found in the boot of her burning car. Four men were convicted of disposing of and trying to destroy her body but no one will ever be tried and convicted of her murder. Two men, Ricardas Dilys and Ruslanas Mineikas stood trial, but the charges against them were withdrawn. The trial judge ruled that they had been held unlawfully when gardai and a doctor became confused about the meaning of a clause in the 2009 Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, brought in to tackle gang land violence to much criticism.
There were quite a few bits of legislation with rough edges during Fianna Fail’s tenure, but quite a few more things were simply not done. The new government is going to have a lot of nuts and bolts governing to attend to, stuff that languished in the perennial to-do pile under the previous administration. There’s the situation that prospective adoptive parents find themselves in for a start. It took the last government years to get round to ratifying the Hague Convention, which rather sensibly ruled that intercountry adoptions could only take place where a bilateral agreement exists between Ireland and the country were the adoption is to take place. The problem is that they didn’t actually put in place any new bilateral agreements with the countries people were adopting from so people going through the arduous process are now in a legal limbo waiting for something to be done. The only country currently open for adoption is Bulgaria and domestic adoption isn’t an option, for reasons I’ll go into another time.
It would be nice to think that the new government will actually do some governing, rather than reacting to every hysterical front page with a piece of shoddy knee jerk legislation and putting everything else on the long finger but I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then I’ll expect to see the fallout passing through the courts, which aren’t so very far from Leinster House after all.