THE economic crisis in Greece is likely to be the most significant European influence on internal Irish politics, north and south, since the Spanish civil war (1936-39).

Posted By: July 04, 2015

Patrick Murphy. Irish News. ( Belfast). Saturday, July 4, 2015

The result of tomorrow’s Greek referendum will impact on Irish political opinion and it will likely shape election manifestos on both sides of the border.

Like the Spanish civil war, events in Greece will foster a new emphasis in The South on left-right politics, particularly on issues such as water charges. It will also add an extra ingredient to The North’s sectarian frying pan during the forthcoming UK referendum on EU[European Union] membership. (Even the EU is a sectarian issue here.)

Since Greece’s left-right political divisions have not reached the point of civil war (but don’t rule it out), history will not quite repeat itself. However, after tomorrow’s referendum, the Irish electorate will see a re-run of some of the political issues from the 1930s.

So what will happen in Greece and how will it affect us?

Whatever the referendum result, the outcome will be the same: economic hardship and massive human suffering. Greece’s problem is that Europe’s political and financial authorities refuse to accept that you cannot balance a budget during a recession.

Tax increases and government spending cuts reduce demand for goods. That worsens the slump and reduces government income even more, which explains why the Greek economy has contracted by 25 per cent in recent years.

EU (and therefore our) president Jean-Claude Juncker, has urged Greece to stick with austerity. While Mr Juncker was prime minister of Luxembourg, his country grew rich by facilitating corporate tax avoidance, thereby depriving other EU countries of tens of billions of euro in revenue.

Greece’s reply to Mr Juncker, therefore, might reasonably be to leave the euro, devalue its new currency and default on its debt to prevent another £6 billion from leaving the economy in the next eighteen months.

The euro has failed because it was a political, not an economic invention. Greece did not even meet the entry criteria for Eurozone membership. A right-wing government there falsified their accounts and the rest of Europe turned a blind eye.

Although the euro has kept wages low across the Eurozone, most Greeks apparently want to retain the currency, which leaves the referendum outcome and its aftermath highly unpredictable.

So what will political Ireland do? Fine Gael will do what it did in 1936 and support right-wing parties and policies, this time in Greece. If the Greek left gains a better deal than Ireland, Fine Gael could lose the election. If the right triumphs, Enda Kenny is our next taoiseach.

Fianna Fáil will also repeat its 1930s stance, by remaining officially neutral. It too can benefit electorally from a Greek economic collapse and it now has sufficient momentum to blame Fine Gael for Ireland’s more recent economic woes.

In the north, Greece’s problems will strengthen unionist opposition to UK membership of the EU. Any concessions which David Cameron wins from Brussels will likely receive majority support here. (The result of the left-right argument in Greece, will also probably determine whether Greek flags fly on the Shankill or the Falls.)

The biggest potential loser, north and south, is Sinn Féin. If Greece descends into economic chaos by failing to agree a bailout, Enda Kenny can claim that Ireland would go the same way with SF in government. He has the photos of the Greek deputy finance minister at this year’s SF ard fheis to prove it.

If the Greeks do a deal, Kenny can claim that they merely followed Ireland’s lead.

Should the left win in Greece, Sinn Féin still remains exposed by its Stormont policies.Yesterday many Greek businesses offered staff unpaid leave, because they could not afford to pay them.

They may have got the idea from the Education Authority here, which made the same offer to its staff on Monday. The EA is funded by the Sinn Féin-controlled Department of Education.

(You may argue that the Tory writ should not run in Ireland, but through the Good Friday Agreement, SF recognises the legitimacy of British rule here.) The party’s stance on welfare (which has now changed three times) conceals a huge swathe of public sector cuts across all areas of government.It is now open to challenge from the left, north and south.

So what, you might ask, did Sinn Féin do in 1936? While many Irish joined the left-wing International Brigade to fight in Spain, the IRA went off to bomb England.

Now England is economically bombing us, which suggests that some Irish political parties learned more from history than others.