Friday 9 December 2016

Eilis O’Hanlon’s election diary: It's not the voters who are afraid as Fright Night nears

Eilis O’Hanlon

Published 21/02/2016 | 02:30

ON REFLECTION: Tanaiste and Labour party leader Joan Burton does a double take on her way into the launch of Labour’s plan for Arts, Culture & Heritage named ‘Standing Up for Irish Culture’ which was held at the Project Arts Centre, Temple Bar, Dublin last week. Photo: Tom Burke
ON REFLECTION: Tanaiste and Labour party leader Joan Burton does a double take on her way into the launch of Labour’s plan for Arts, Culture & Heritage named ‘Standing Up for Irish Culture’ which was held at the Project Arts Centre, Temple Bar, Dublin last week. Photo: Tom Burke

If Fine Gael and Labour's joint plan for re-election was a TV show, it would be more Fear Factor than X Factor.

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As they head into the final week of the campaign, the intention is clear - to "scare the sh*t" out of voters by talking up the dangers of electing a left-wing government.

What a pity they can't see what's really scary is realising Fine Gael and Labour didn't have a plan before now to woo doubters, but were just making it up as they went along.

What are all those highly paid advisers for anyway?

Has Enda left it too late? Not according to Joan Burton, who insists people only make up their minds a few days before an election.

It makes you wonder why the Coalition bothered campaigning at all. They should have just retreated into their shells for a nap, like the tortoise in the famous Aesop's fable, whilst the opposition hares raced to the finish line.

Labour didn't even launch its manifesto until earlier this week. In a church, of all places, which is rather cheeky of Ireland's most vehemently anti-clerical party.

It's akin to Nora Bennis's Catholic Democrats - running for three seats this time, and no doubt hoping to improve on the party's 100pc record of failure - launching its campaign in a family planning clinic.

Perhaps Labour has realised too late that it needs a miracle? Sadly, even God might struggle with that one.

What the Coalition desperately needs is an outbreak of triumphalism in the final days of the campaign, like the infamous "Sheffield rally" which unravelled UK Labour leader Neil Kinnock's chances in 1992, as his supporters celebrated victory at the polls before the polls had even opened.

If Enda and Joan could just find some secret photographs of Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin dancing a victory jig, or Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams high-fiving Thomas 'Slab' Murphy at the latest opinion polls, they'd be home and dry. Defeatists might argue that no such pictures exist. But sure isn't that what Photoshop is for?

It's make your mind up time

Too much choice can be confusing. So for those who haven't yet made up their minds what to do come Friday, here's a handy cut out and keep guide to 'Which Way To Vote In The 2016 Election'.

If 'recovery' is your new favourite word, vote Fine Gael.

If you've been banging the drum about a referendum on the 8th Amendment and don't want to be exposed as a total hypocrite by not supporting the one party which can actually deliver it, vote Labour.

If you want to punish the Government but are worried at handing power to an unstable rag bag of Trotskyists and anarchists, vote Fianna Fail.

If you want Ireland to be like Greece, vote Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit. If, on the other hand, you want it to be like West Belfast, vote Sinn Fein - and do try to remember to do it early and often. It's traditional.

If you're a wee bit nostalgic for the PDs, vote Renua. If you're not quite sure of the difference between Stephen Donnelly's Social Democrats and Shane Ross's Independent Alliance, join the club.

Now, just toss a coin and vote for whichever one comes up heads.

That's what most of the parties' candidates did when deciding which to join.

If you think polar bears are more important than jobs in rural Ireland, vote Green.

If you didn't realise that Killinaskully was meant to be a comedy, vote for one of the Healy Raes. It really, Healy doesn't matter which one.

And if you want to be doing all this again in another nine months' time because no one has managed to put together a working majority in the 32nd Dail, simply vote for whichever Independent takes your fancy on the day, then sit back and enjoy the fun of the fair.

Hope that helps.

******

The list of things Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams doesn't have a clue about grows alarmingly longer each day. What should replace the Special Criminal Court once it's abolished? Gerry doesn't know. What's going to happen to Irish Water workers once that's been disbanded too? Gerry doesn't know.

What will the marginal rate of personal tax be for a small business owner earning over €100,000 under a Sinn Fein-led government? Er, guess who's not too sure?

'Gerry Doesn't Know' should have been the party's election slogan. Still, at least Adams knows enough Irish to debate as Gaeilge on TG4. No, wait, turns out he doesn't know that either. Awkward.

Marry in haste, repent in office

"We're not compatible, lads," said FF's Barry Cowen when asked about growing speculation of a FG/FF hook up after the election.

Finance minister Michael Noonan was even more scornful, dismissing all such suggestions with Churchillian bluntness: "Never!"

Methinks the laddies do protest too much. It doesn't matter if the chap on the other side of the political bed snores or leaves up the toilet seat. No one's suggesting they get married. In coalition, all that counts is that he does the political equivalent of paying the gas bill on time and remembering to take out the bins. FG might be left with no other option anyway, as all momentum is being shown by the Soldiers of Destiny.

Everyone now admits it, except the Irish Times which ran a curious editorial last week declaring that Micheal Martin's party had "failed to benefit" from dissatisfaction with the Government because it was "flirting with fiscal profligacy". Nice alliteration there.

But then how come the anti-austerity crowd isn't also suffering as it promises to spend, spend, spend like a 1960s football pools winner?

The bore war

The Government is being criticised for running a dull campaign. That's very harsh. Dullness has never been considered a disadvantage in Blueshirt circles, as anyone unfortunate enough to ever attend a Young Fine Gael disco can attest.

Name game?

Renua Ireland - as opposed to what? Renua Bangladesh?

Face in the hole

No one seems to like election posters. Why not? They give a sense of carnival, making elections a bit like Paddy's Day, but without the rampant drunkenness.

But what is the rationale behind parties' poster campaign strategy? Is there one? Or do they just throw them up on every available space?

Last week brought the startling sight of five Enda Kennys lined up on the same small fence. What are we supposed to think as our eye travels along the line?

First poster: "Not interested." Second: "Would you ever stop bothering me and go away?" Third: "Hang on a minute . . ." Fourth: "You know, Enda, you might be right." Fifth: "You've won me over. Vote Fine Gael!"

Common cents

The Social Democrats say they haven't costed their proposals because it would give a "false impression". Isn't that rather like saying you don't want to provide an alibi when a crime's been committed as that might give you an unfair advantage over the other suspects?

The economy, stupid?

A worrying sign for those convinced the FG/Labour government is about to take a hiding at the ballot box is this detail from the small print of a recent poll: "The coalition is most popular among older people."

And who always comes out dutifully to vote on polling day, rain or shine?

If a fear that changing horses might damage the recovery does win out in the end, it will confirm again that it's always the economy, stupid, and all those whited sepulchres who insisted to pollsters that homelessness and waiting lists were their main concern were just spoofing all along.

Sunday Independent

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