Ireland – a country with many similarities to New Zealand - is about to go to the polls. And as with NZ politics, there’s been an ideological collapse in Irish politics. Despite having proportional representation in both countries - which is supposed to encourage ideological diversity – in both countries it seems to have had a very homogenizing effect. This is certainly Jason Walsh’s view of Irish politics, which you can read in his Guardian article A poor advertisement for politics. He says ‘the ideological collapse in Irish politics is breathtaking’, and ‘No matter who wins the 2007 general election, the voters will lose’. It certainly sounds like NZ. According to Walsh, Irish voters have a choice ‘between two populist conservative parties slugging it out for control of government supported by their Labour-conservative and radical-conservative partners’, and ‘Instead of issues and ideas we have scandals’, which he says are ‘a poor substitute for politics’. He quotes from a John O'Farrell novel to say, ‘What's the difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael? The same as the difference between shit and shite.’ While all this is surely true, there are some interesting things about this week’s Irish election. First, as Owen Bowcott points out in A boom too far, ‘After centuries of poverty, mass emigration and underinvestment, there is a new political agenda emerging in Ireland: how to cope with the consequences of affluence’ – essentially mainstream parties have failed to manage the economic boom, especially in distributing any of the proceeds fairly. Second, Sinn Féin are doing very well (8-10%), and could possibly take part in the next government of the South, meaning that the party would for the first time be in power in both the south and north of Ireland.