Saturday 22 October 2016

10 things to expect in politics as new Dail term kicks off

Published 21/09/2015 | 11:38

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny speaks to Sein Fein leader, Gerry Adams
Taoiseach, Enda Kenny speaks to Sein Fein leader, Gerry Adams

As the new Dail term kicks off this week, we take a look at what to expect.

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From the serious to the comic, the happenings in the world of politics in the run-up to the next election are sure to keep us all amused.


Election Budget

Sure, you can practically book the marquee now for your back garden for the champagne and caviar party. 

Yes, dust off your top hats and monocles folks – the classic Celtic Tiger election budget is back.

Well, maybe not quite - but you might be able to treat yourself to a packet of crisps with your lunch on Fridays.

The kite flying is already in full effect, with all reports suggesting we could have a little bit more change in our pockets on payday.

Of course Budget Day is the Oscars of the political world – standing room only in the chamber, everyone in their Sunday best, and melodramatic speeches.


Irish Water

Of course the opposition will be eager to point out that extra fiver in your pocket after the budget probably still won’t cover your water charges.

The long anticipated conservation grant is finally being rolled out, and if the company’s previous attempts at - well, everything - are anything to go by, expect plenty of political hay being made by the opposition.

Will they require the soul of your first born to process the grant? Probably not. But the government will be hoping it can get to the election without another controversy from the utility.   


Banking Inquiry reports

We seem to love nothing more than a good inquiry/commission/commission of inquiry in this country.

The Banking Inquiry is expected to issue its report towards the end of this year – and while the government might still be licking its wounds over Fennelly, Fianna Fail will be more concerned with this one.

While the inquiry is meant to be a non-political one, most are expecting Fianna Fail to get some form of smack on the nose from its report.

While the party’s supporters were heartened by the robust defence former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen gave of their terms in office, many would expect the party won’t come out smelling of roses from the report.


Sinn Fein

Many political observers will be interested to see how Sinn Fein behave in the run up to the election.

Mere months ago poll numbers were suggesting the party was on the verge of becoming the largest in the state, but the recent IRA controversy has proved a headache the party doesn’t need.

However should it weather the storm, as polls suggest it largely did with the abuse controversy, pundits will be watching the party’s tactics.

Will it continue to mark the government? Or in the run-up to the election will it instead choose to use the potential findings of the Banking Inquiry to take out its opposition competition in Fianna Fail?

Fighting a war on two fronts (hold the IRA puns) could also be an option for the party – picking off the traditional working class Labour seats as it tackles the government while moving in on seats Fianna Fail will be anxious to reclaim.

And what will Gerry Adam’s role be? Will Mary Lou become the public face of the party as it gets into election mode?


Phantom backbenchers

You’ll know it’s an election term because that backbencher from your constituency who you’ve never heard of is suddenly plastered across the local papers, giving sound bites to the wireless, in the front row of mass every Sunday.

Yep, far from the ‘who’s who’ of Irish politics, the ‘who’s that?’ will now attempt to grab the spotlight.

It’s that guy from school who started studying for the Leaving Cert in May.

Want to hold a ribbon cutting for your new conservatory? Did little Mary win the egg-and-spoon at the sports day? Funeral of kinda-known local person? Well your anonymous local backbench TD will be there for the next two to five months.


The photo ops

Hand-in-hand with election mode is increasingly bizarre photo ops.

Kissing babies, milking cows, gazing off into the distance deep in thought.

Now for every one of these photo ops that goes well, half a dozen go wrong – the baby cries, the cow needs to relieve itself, you have something hanging off your nose as you gaze into the distance.



Another issue which could have ramifications in the coming Dail term is the ongoing situation in Greece.

The only bail-out country where a strident anti-austerity party has been elected to government, and its dealings with the EU and ECB have been reflective of that.

As Syriza wins re-election in the country, any concessions (or lack thereof) won by the government from the EU will be closely watched here.

Have we been patsies led down the garden path of austerity?  Or has being the good example at the top of the bail-out class actually helped our recovery?


The ‘courting’

Sure it’s like a barnyard dance of old.

Well, probably something a lot less romantic. More of a “will you shift my friend round the back of the hall after the national anthem? Go on, it’s for a dare.”

Yes the ‘will they? won’t they?’ of coalition government formation kicks off in earnest, before a single ballot has been cast.

Some are monogamous, and will only go to bed with their one preferred partner.

Some are experimenting, and will go to bed with anyone.

Others are saying they are remaining celibate, but that’s only because we all know no one will have them.


Fennelly fallout

As political crisis management goes, the publication and management of the Fennelly report will be a case study in political textbooks.

The days expressing confidence no wrong-doing will be reported, publishing it 30 minutes before the main national TV news – and slating the Taoiseach’s only media interview on the report to be on that same news bulletin.

However this Dail term will give the opposition their first opportunity to get their political pound of flesh on the issue.

Will Enda Kenny end up in the firing line? Or could a new nicely timed - yet not overly damaging - Irish Water controversy throw the spotlight back on an already embattled Labour Minister? Not that any kind of manipulative backroom politics of that sort goes on in Leinster House, of course.  


The promises

It’s election manifesto season.

That thing every newly-elected government regrets publishing, because it’s the thing every opposition waves in their face for the next five years – shouting about broken promises, betrayal and other synonyms of the words ‘dirty lying scoundrels’ they can find in the online thesaurus on their smart phone during leader’s questions.

Let’s just preface all manifesto launches by saying 10-15pc of promises will be kept. Bringing back honesty to Irish politics.

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