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Partisan gridlock? Not in Ireland


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Once a proposal passes through the cabinet, a bill is drafted and it arrives on the house floor for a vote – where again it will meet with only token resistance.

It’s all basically a no-fuss approach – although as any observer of the British House of Commons or the Irish Dail can attest, opposition lawmakers often harangue government ministers when they are at last given the courtesy of hearing what has been decided without an iota of their input.

To an ex-pat American accustomed to perpetual partisan fighting in Washington, the streamlined parliamentary system can seem an admirably decisive way to run a country. 

But wait: Isn’t this what got Ireland into fiscal trouble in the first place, a succession of largely uncontested legislative initiatives under previous Fianna Fail governments that helped set the stage for the meltdown of the Celtic Tiger economy beginning in 2008?

And can’t the same be said for many other European countries – such as Greece, Spain, and Italy – whose lawmakers simply rubber-stamped bad policies over the last decade?

So even as Congress endures another episode of short-term politics, US voters might heed a lesson from the Emerald Isle and other European democracies where legislative consent is rarely in doubt.

Stalemate is not an attractive spectacle. But it does require that Congress and the president negotiate. And as the Founders intended, it just might prevent each side from doing something the country will come to regret.

Steve Coronella has lived in Ireland since 1992. He is the author of “This Thought’s On Me: A Boston Guy Reflects on Leaving the Hub, Becoming a Dub & Other Topics.” He can be reached at


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