Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Elections Over – Fianna Fáil Still Toxic, A Government Starting to Slide

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A Fianna Fáil Resurrection in Dublin West

– or A Fine Gael  Gift?

Ed Moloney in his always stimulating Broken Elbow Blog concentrates on the Sinn Féin performance and suggests in passing:

Fianna Fail did what no-one expected and put on a convincing impression of Lazarus. The FF result in the West Dublin by-election, the creditable performance of Sean Gallagher, the ersatz Fianna Failer – despite the late-breaking brown envelope scandal.

I disagreed, and posted a an explanatory reply.  This article expands on the topic.

The Fianna Fáil Dublin West by-election result must be analysed in tandem with the dire Fine Gael result achieved by a very weak candidate, Eithne Loftus.

Typically in Irish by-elections the sitting TD wants a weak party candidate – such as the sitting Fine Gael TD, Government Minister Leo Varadkar, who was obliged to deny he had any role in the choice of a poor candidate –

Loftus nearly halved the FG first preference vote, slashing the party’s share of the first preference vote from 27.19% to 14.74%, a fall of 12.45 per cent.

The Fianna Fáil increase of 5.1%, and the 3.58% improvement won by its former coalition partner the Green Party was almost certainly a Loftus gift.

Varadkar, who got this ticking-off from Harry McGee of the Irish Times, will be a much tougher opponent in a future general election :

Eithne Loftus did not have the dynamism or hunger of her rivals and made little impact outside her own Castleknock area.

She seemed the safest and least-threatening candidate to the party’s sitting TD Leo Varadkar. That should not have been the criterion for selection. Her 15 per cent return reflects badly on the party and on Varadkar.

Seán Gallagher’s Toxic Fianna Fáil Brand

Statewide, the key fact about Seán Gallagher is that once he was exposed as a Fianna Fáil bagman by Martin McGuinness on the Frontline TV programme, Michael D Higgins of the Labour Party gained a whopping 13 per cent of the first preference vote. This clearly indicates that the Fianna Fáil brand is still very toxic.

Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Féin candidate, proved that Gallagher solicited €5000 from Hugh Morgan, the wealthy owner of Morgan Fuels, sponsor of the Armagh Gaelic Football Team.

An interesting question : why did Sinn Féin do this favour for Higgins?  No doubt, Michael D will always a keep a safe house in the Phoenix Park for Martin, Mary-Lou and their friends!

Even more interesting : how many political parties are part of the “brown envelope”/ “corporate donation” culture?

Cork Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher prised opened this can of worms on the October 25 2011 Tonight With Vincent Browne TV3 Programme, leading the Presenter to question a very uncomfortable Labour Senator Ivana Bacik about her party’s corporate fund-raising efforts. In particular Vincent drew our attention to a Brown-Envelope-Style Labour Fund-Raising event in 1997 when Ruairí Quinn (now Minister for Education) was the Minister for Finance.

Bacik eventually concedes it is “morally wrong” to “pay for access to a Minister” – here is an issue the United Left Alliance TD’s could pursue with the support of other left-wing TD’s and Sinn Féin.

Labour Also Lost Support in Dublin West

On the other side of the line the Labour Party’s Patrick Nulty lost a small amount of ground ( dropping from 28.99 to 24.27 per cent, a fall of 4.72 per cent.) to Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party/ United Left Alliance, who gained 2.09%.

In that case the LP probably had to run a strong candidate who stood on the left of the party to fend off Coppinger.

There are now two Labour TD’s in Dublin West, and the longer-sitting tenant, Minister Joan Burton, might soon be wishing she had done “A Varadkar”.

All constituencies will be redrawn before the next General Election and the number will be reduced from 166 to either 155 or 153 – a Boundary Commission Report will be published in the near future. Suggestions may then emerge that Burton and Nulty should no longer fight in the same constituency!

The Referendums

Most media commentary on the Defeated Oireachtas Enquiries Referendum has not addressed the key political questions, which were highlighted by a United Left Alliance Statement :

Like many others I only paid attention to this issue a few days before the vote, and the ULA statement ultimately convinced me to Vote NO, in particular with the following argument:

In a briefing on the referendum by senior officials in Minister Howlin’s department to ULA and Technical group TDs and staff it was confirmed that no legal aid provision would be made to an ordinary citizen being compelled to appear before an Oireachtas inquiry as a witness or as an accused person

It seems clear many people still blame Fianna Fáil for the deep crisis in Ireland today, and do not – yet – see the Fine Gael / Labour Government as the Tweedledum equalling the Fianna Fáil Tweedledee.  All the same, the trend is clear – government support is slipping, we await the December Budget of Doom.

2 Responses

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  1. Gene Kerrigan makes a great suggestion : We need Higgins to ‘go mad’ in the Aras

    We doubt if Michael D will take advice from this blog, but maybe he will consider Gene’s proposal, perhaps putting the excellent columnist on the Council of State?

    D_D extends the Tweedledum/Tweedledee Debate over on the Cedar Lounge :


    Nov 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm

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