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Partisan gridlock? Not in Ireland

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To see how this works in comparison to America, let’s take the situation here in Ireland, where patchwork compromise of the US variety is wholly unnecessary because the present coalition between the Fine Gael and Labour parties enjoys a near 50-seat majority in the Dail, or lower house of parliament.

As a result of this iron grip on power, the Irish government can do pretty much as it pleases. Unlike in the US, the legislative process moves swiftly. Irish cabinet ministers identify problems (the most troublesome at the moment being in health and education), come up with intended solutions, and then look for approval – which is almost always granted – from their cabinet colleagues.

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?

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