The @finegael #LE14 meltdown is a repeat of @fiannafailparty’s #LE09 one #ep14

I have now updated my initial thoughts, musings, observations and mild rantings on the implications of the local election results, particularly Fianna Fáil’s stronger than expected showing.

This was first posted on Sunday morning – updated on Monday morning to reflect the revised party national totals in the Local Elections.


Local Election Results national overview
Local Election Results national overview


“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” – George Bernard Shaw.

Quite a lot, it seems.

Yesterday we saw history repeating itself, with the electorate visiting upon Fine Gael and Labour almost exactly the same devastating blow it had served up to Fianna Fáil and Labour five years earlier.

In 2009 Fianna Fáil lost around 39% of its support (when compared with 2007) while the Greens endured a massive reduction in its vote of 76%.

Yesterday, based on the Local Election results to hand, Fine Gael lost 34% of its support and Labour lost 63%.

le14 grid

While the story of the Local Elections is the rise in support for Sinn Féin and the Independents and the scale of the loss for Labour, the Fine Gael haemorrhaging of support should not be ignored.

Indeed, the case can be made that the real story of the election is this massive Fine Gael loss – a loss that should not be glossed over by what might appear to be its reasonable performance in the European Elections.

Losing 100 plus Councillors, on a day when you have increased the number of available council seats, is a political meltdown of Fianna Fáil in 2009 proportions. It will send a shiver around the Fine Gael backbenches that will match that currently coursing along the spines of their Labour colleagues.

Leo Varadkar’s line that the next election will be a battle between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin was a clever attempt to calm the troops with the notion that their lost support will come back when the Irish voters realise that Fine Gael is all that stands between them and the Shinners.

It’s clever line, but a flawed one.

For it to offer any comfort it would need to be underpinned by Fine Gael still remaining the largest party – but it hasn’t. By the time the dust settles it will become clear that the other big story of the locals is the return to frontline politics of Fianna Fáil, even if its European results are a bit rocky.

If the battle of the next election is, as Varadkar suggests, to be fought on the question of where you stand with regard to Sinn Féin then Fianna Fáil, with a few more weapons in its armoury, is standing on better – and now even firmer – ground than the depleted followers of Enda.

While Fine Gael may see itself as the antithesis of Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil can challenge SF’s voodoo economics every bit as credibly as FG, but with the added bonus that that can better undermine and dismantle the Shinner’s fallacious claim to Republicanism, especially in its back yard.

The other story of the Fianna Fáil result is its incredible variety. Its national level of support at just over 25% belies some very good and incredibly bad local results, especially in urban centres.

They range from the sublime such as its 49% in Bailieborough-Coothall 39% in Castlecomer and 38.4% in Ballymote-Tobercurry to the ridiculous: such as its 4.9% in Dublin North Inner City, 6.8% in Tallaght South and 8.7% in Lucan.

While there are several other disappointing low teen results in urban centres across the country e.g 9.6% in Waterford City South, 10.5% in Bray and 13% in Limerick City North, it is no coincidence that the single digit performances are in Dublin.

That is not to say that the Capital is a wasteland for Fianna Fail. Contrast the single performance mentioned above with the parties stunning 27.3% in Castleknock, its 24.2% in Clontarf and its 22.3% in Stillorgan.

While the overall Dublin result of 16% points to a major problem for the party, the variety in results, highlighted above, shows Fianna Fáil’s further potential for growth and renewal in large swathes of Dublin.

It is the very patchiness of its result that points up where the party needs to work harder and better. Far too many candidates in Dublin were left to struggle on by themselves with no structured national campaign to underpin their efforts.

Having “Fianna Fáil” on your poster does not guarantee a good new candidate a certain base level of support in Dublin and other urban centres in the same way as having “Sinn Féin” on your poster did for their new first time candidates. Indeed it does not offer the prospect of that base level of support as it does in non-urban Ireland.

The candidates in Dublin raised the Fianna Fáil vote to their level, not the other way around. The vote in Dublin and other urban centres, is not the party vote plus the candidate’s unique personal support – it is just the latter. In certain parts of the city is it the unique personal support minus the residual antagonism to Fianna Fáil.

The “Fianna Fáil” identity is Dublin is not a coherent identity based on a core defining message from the party as a national political party: it is the collective identities of its various candidates.

This is not to underestimate the particular nature of Dublin voters, especially their looser party allegiances; it is just to point out that Dublin voters are just as likely to be receptive to a national message, just less continuously loyal to it.

Despite some clearly very good results in Dublin, most Fianna Fáil supporters still struggle to answer the questions: why should I vote Fianna Fáil and what does Fianna Fáil stand for. Most of the successful candidates I have encountered in Dublin answer it with the words: here is what I stand for…

It is not that there are not answers to these questions, but rather that the party has not sufficiently defined and substantiated them.

It is work that can and must be done. That work is not aided or encouraged by intemperate outbursts or Quixotic threatened heaves. The issues are policy and organisation – not personality.

The 24.3% of voters who abandoned Fine Gael and Labour saw their political alternatives this week. Some said independents, some said Sinn Féin – though not by a large margin as the swing to Sinn Féin since the 2011 election is in the 5.3%, but even more said Fianna Fáil with a swing of just over 8%, but the point should not be lost that the biggest single section of them said: none of the above.

The ones who stayed at home are the ones who were badly let down by Fianna Fáil and are now just as angry with Fine Gael and Labour for promising them a new politics and then delivering the old failed politics as usual.

Perhaps they concluded that they could afford to sit out these second order elections, as they do not see how the results will change their lives, they will not be as sanguine at the next election.

Who is the worst Minister in Government – you decide

The first meeting of the cabinet

I recently discovered the website and wanted to try it out, so I decided to create an online poll to see how the site works.

The poll is determine the worst member of Government – the poll is being run under PR STV – ie you vote for the worst minister in the order of your choice 1 being worst, 2 being second worst and so on… you can stop after 1, or continue on down until 15 (for least worst… or even best!)

There will just be one winner – i.e. one person who exceeds the 50% + 1 quota. You can view the results as the voting proceeds – ie it will run the election as if yours was the final vote to be cast.

You can vote via this link:

I will publish the results in a few days.

Labour didn’t know magnitude of problems facing Ireland?

Irish Labour Party - Didn't Know
Irish Labour Party - Didn't Know

I have just been watching Labour’s Dominic Hannigan on The Week in Politics and was amazed to hear him claim that Labour didn’t know the magnitude of problems facing Ireland during the General Election campaign last year. He offered this as the reason why they have abandoned so many of the promises made in that campaign.

It is the same attitude you hear when Ministers trot out the glib little phrase “we inherited this from the last government”.

I am long enough around in politics to know that the Government will be using variations on this theme for a long time to come. When there is a change of government, particularly on the scale we saw last year, the incoming Government is naturally going to dump on the previous one.

It happens everywhere. In the UK, although he is well now two year ins office, David Cameron starts off almost every reply to Prime Minister’s questions saying how he is trying to tackle the problems left by Gordon Brown.

Doubtless he will continue to trot out the line for a while more, though polls there are suggesting the British electorate are starting to tire of it,

I understand that the Taoiseach and his assortment of Ministers are going to spend the next year or more prefacing every utterance with the “it wasn’t me, it was like this when I got here” line of attack.

I just wish they would drop the “inheriting” hook and find a line that does not make them sound as if they are some unwilling group plucked from obscurity and press-ganged into taking on the Ministerial offices, salaries and cars against their will.

Most people “inheriting” a situation have found themselves in that space despite their wishes, not because of them. As far as I know you cannot legally inherit from someone you have helped to do in, even when that someone was already doing a good job of doing themselves in.

This government came into office knowing the situation they faced full well. They set it out clearly in their election campaigns and went to the people asking them for their mandate to tackle the enormous problems we face. Labour’s Finance spokeperson said the economy was banjaxed:

The two parties now holding the levers of power have every right to talk about the size of the problems, the need for difficult decisions and to throw a few belts into the outgoing government for good measure.

They should not, however, be talking as if this all something that has taken them somehow by surprise. They also forfeit the right to lash their predecessors on every single issue by effectively taking the same policy approaches.

The health issue and the fate of local A&Es is a good case in point. There is no credibility in the Health Minister outbidding the outgoing Government by writing open letters to the voters in February saying “Fine Gael undertakes to retain the emergency surgical, medical and other health services at Roscommon Hospital”, only to reverse that commitment a few weeks later.

The Taoiseach only adds salt to the wound by offering the defence that when Dr Reilly “…was contesting the general election he was not in possession of the informati

on about the difficulties surrounding the recruitment of non-consultant hospital doctors.”

Aras11: and then there was five, or four…..

With each passing day the Aras11 race increasingly resembles a remake of the 1945 Agatha Christie movie: And Then There Were None.

For those of you who haven’t seen the Barry Fitzgerald classic, or its later remakes, the plot revolves around a group of people brought together on a remote and isolated location by Mr U. N. Owen (say it out loud and you will get it).

One by one the guests depart. Each in increasingly tragic circumstances, until there is just one is left. Or, is there? Have each of them really gone to meet their maker? Could there be a last minute twist in the tale?

Ok, I have done this metaphor to death, but you can see where I am going with it.

Labour’s early selection of Michael D Higgins heralded early exits by Fergus Finlay and Kathleen O’Meara. Niall O’Dowd’s withdrawal last week and Avril Doyle’s exit this week has brought the total number of viable candidates down by four. I say “viable” as there are two also-rans seeking Council nominations.

Today’s Fine Gael selection convention will reduce the field by a further two – though you will find it hard to get a firm consensus on which two.

So what does this all mean? Well, by the close of business tonight the original field will have been halved. Three of these will definitely be on the Aras11 ballot paper: the FG and Lab nominees, plus Sean Gallagher. Two more: Mary Davis and Senator David Norris will be hoping to make it before the final deadline.

So it now looks like there will be a field of five candidates when the election comes around in October. Or will there? Will there be one or two more – will there be one less?  October is still a long way away.

With 33 Oireachtas members, Fianna Fáil has more than the 20 signatures needed and could still choose to support a candidate not already in the race and not necessarily from the Fianna Fáil family.

With a total of 31, the Independent TDs and Senators, including United Left Alliance, could also nominate, if they can find one on whom twenty of them can agree Though Norris supporters suggest he has 8 or 9 of them already signed up.

While Sinn Féin, with 17 Oireachtas members, would need to get three Independents on side to give a nomination to a person of their choice.

Back on the Council trail: the longest declared candidate, Senator David Norris, must be feeling pretty miffed to be overtaken in the Council stakes by Sean Gallagher on 5 and Mary Davis on 2.

Gallagher’s relative ease in securing motions of intent would suggest that he and his team were working on this campaign long before he officially entered the race. I know some of his core campaign team. They are very skilled professionals who have run it like a classic Seanad campaign.

It is this skill and ability; however, that makes Mary Davis’s victory in Gallagher’s Louth and Monaghan backyards all the more impressive.  Her comfortable margins suggests that my mate, and keen political blogger, Jonny Fallon, was right when he tweeted a few weeks back that the other Independents would have to wait until Gallagher got his four councils.

It also suggests that a coalition of non Fine Gael councillors across the remaining councils is preparing to swing in behind the Special Olympics boss Davis, as their next favoured independent. She now looks certain be also be on the Aras11

Less certain is Norris. He has been waiting for almost two months to follow up on his one success in Fingal Council. It will be interesting to see if Fine Gael is still set on stymieing his campaign. This would be in contrast to the Fine Gael abstentions elsewhere which allowed Gallagher to get through.

Maybe Fine Gael fear Norris more than Gallagher, or maybe they just want someone in the race who they can label and attack as a Fianna Fáiler?

Who knows, only time will tell – and time, as Agatha Christie observed, is the best killer.


From Evening Herald July 9th 2011