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A political analyst who has written for newspapers in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia has predicted that the Irish electorate will elect a new Taoiseach by a wide margin and will decide on whether or not the country will become a Republic by next May.
Michael Byrne, the head of political science at University College Cork, said the result would be “a shock to the system” and that “the Irish people” would be given a choice between the current government of Fine Gael and the new government led by Micheál Martin.
“We’re going into a situation that we haven’t seen in many years,” he told The Irish News.
“The Taoiseaching [of the new Prime Minister] is going to be the most difficult and the most important job in the Republic for quite a long time.”
If we don’t get it, it will be the greatest tragedy of the Republic’s political life and that will be a very significant blow to it for a generation.
“It’s not the only one, but it is a major one.
It’s a major problem.”
In the past five years, Mr Byrne has been the leading expert on the Irish election.
In his latest article for The Irish Independent, published in the Sunday Independent, he warned that if Mr Martin fails to deliver on the promises of his first term as Taoiseachtr, the country would go back to a “dictatorship”.
He said that if the electorate didn’t choose a new leader, it would likely choose to return to a monarchy.
“It would not be the first time that’s happened.
It happened to the United Kingdom.
But there is nothing like that going on in Ireland,” he said.”
The country is going through a process that could see it go back into a monarchy and the monarchy would be the sole leader of Ireland, which is a completely illegitimate position.”
The new Taoideach is expected to announce his successor within days.
“If the new Taoisach does not come in, the next question is whether or no he has a successor,” he added.
Mr Byrne said he was confident that if he was right, the new Government would win and the Irish people would choose Mr Martin over the “dictatorial” Fine Gael administration.
“Martin has the advantage of being a former prime minister who was not part of a coalition government with the other political parties, which means he is going back to the politics of the past,” he wrote.
“In that sense, Martin has the most to lose by not coming in.
He would be a political liability to the country and to the Republic, because he would not have the support of the new Irish people.”
He said that as the country heads into an election campaign, it is important to understand that “if the next Taoisah is not elected, the republic will return to the position of a dictatorship.”
He added: “If that happens, I expect that the new Fine Gael government would then be elected by a significant majority and would be able to make significant reforms in relation to Irish public services.”
Mr Byrne predicted that he would see the same thing happen in Britain and Australia, two of the countries that have a Republic status.
“They have had similar electoral problems, so they’ve had their own elections,” he continued.
“I expect that Ireland will see the result of the Irish vote for a new Prime Minster and then it will go back in that direction.”‘
No question of democracy’The Irish election is the first test of whether or how the country’s political system is going.
Since it began in 1922, the current political system has been in flux, with both the Fine Gael-led coalition government and the Independents running in successive governments.
“Our first task is to understand what’s happened and what is going on and then we will decide what we want to do next,” said Mr Byrne.
Mr Martin will take office on the first anniversary of the election on March 23.
The next general election will be held on June 16.
Mr Martin has promised to make a number of key reforms, including extending the right to vote and introducing a new national retirement age.