Here's a good voting guide: scratch a Trot, find a Shinner
Published 21/02/2016 | 02:30
Five days to go. How best to use our franchise to create a flourishing and fair society?
First we must blow away the fog of war. The war of words, the arguments on the airwaves, the shouting of statistics.
To figure out where to go next Friday, we first need to figure out how we got here.
How did Fine Gael get it so wrong? It has six well- paid handlers, twice that of Fianna Fail.
But it was Fianna Fail's tiny team of Sean Dorgan, Deirdre Gillane and Pat McParland who found the public pulse.
Last Tuesday, Frank Flannery complained about the failure of the FG frontbench to enter the fray.
He asked: "Where is Leo Varadkar, where is Simon Coveney? Why aren't they playing a dominant role in this debate?"
Leo Varadkar dutifully came on Morning Ireland and tried to be nasty to Micheal Martin without much conviction. Simon Coveney tried, too. But he's more of a jersey puller like Rob Kearney than a crash tackler like Dave Kearney.
Flannery's critique was followed by insights from two panellists on Aine Lawlor's The Week in Politics.
Anne Harris said Fine Gael prepared for a November 2015 campaign but failed to change it five months later.
Gerard Howlin convincingly argued it was much harder to manage a recovery than a recession.
But the burden of blame belongs to the FG handlers who last October made the delinquent decision to target Micheal Martin rather than Gerry Adams.
Stupid, too, because it pitted Enda Kenny against Micheal Martin, the most accomplished debater in Dail Eireann.
Time, however, to ask Lenin's hard question: what is to be done? Here you will not find me sitting on the fence.
For the past 12 months I have been urging voters to support Fine Gael and Fianna Fail for three commonsense reasons.
First, there being no ideological divide between these two parties, the country will do equally well under either.
Second, that being so, the acid test for all candidates is whether they are willing to publicly stand up to Sinn Fein and denounce it as a danger to Irish democracy.
Sinn Fein is a political cult, influenced by grizzled old gunmen in Belfast, led by Gerry Adams who will not break his links with the likes of Slab Murphy.
To my mind, whether or not you support Sinn Fein is the only true test of whether you have a moral compass and care for the future of this country.
Anyone who doubts that there is something sick about Sinn Fein could not have been watching Bryan Dobson's interview with Gerry Adams.
Dobson pressed Adams on whether he would do more to meet the concerns of the family of murdered prison officer Brian Stack.
As he has done before, Adams retreated on to that most corrosive of all political positions: victimhood.
Instead of empathising with Stack's family, Adams adopted a nauseating stance of self-pity and whined about being shot and bombed himself.
But we should not only starve Sinn Fein of electoral support - we should also starve its political supporters and facilitators.
Accordingly, democrats should do their best to take out the Trot factions whose policies see working people end up as simply political fodder for their utopian fantasies.
By Trots I mean the Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit and Deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly.
Mainstream economists find it easy to dismiss Trots on economics: their belief that massive (their favourite word) taxes on the wealthy will create full employment.
This is a waste of energy. Trotskyite economics is so stuck in a student mindset that it poses no threat.
But Trotskyite politics is another matter. From the start of the Troubles, all Trotskyite factions gave "conditional support" to the Provisional IRA.
So much so, that back in the 1970s I summed up their support for the Provos in a slogan: Scratch a Trot, find a Shinner.
Nothing has changed. Every single Trot candidate has declared his or her willingness to do business with Sinn Fein.
To my regret, this includes Richard Boyd Barrett, to whom I have given a preference in the past. No more.
But Independent TDs Mick Wallace, Clare Daly and Maureen O'Sullivan are willing to go even further.
Recently these three TDs offered to post bail in the Special Criminal Court for a Donal O Coisdealbha, accused of IRA membership and possession of explosives.
In conclusion, let me come to the crunch. Given the confusion of candidates and constituencies, do we have any guide to rewarding good politics next Friday?
Dublin Bay South, a four-seat constituency, provides the perfect model for applying my two basic principles: to vote across party lines for both FF or FG and to keep out Sinn Fein.
Last Thursday's Irish Independent reported that Fine Gael HQ is conducting not one but two campaigns in the constituency.
According to reporter Niall O'Connor, the first campaign is aimed at ensuring the re-election of Fine Gael's Eoghan Murphy.
"The other is to unseat Renua leader Lucinda Creighton."
Citing a Millward Brown poll, O'Connor concludes the Fine Gael master plan will cause the following result.
Eoghan Murphy (FG) will top the poll. Chris Andrews (Sinn Fein) will come second, Kevin Humphreys (Labour) will come third.
Accordingly, the battle for the final seat will be between Lucinda Creighton, Kate O'Connell (Enda Kenny's anointed candidate), and Fianna Fail councillor Jim O'Callaghan.
In short, the Fine Gael plan is to get Kate O'Connell elected even if it endangers Murphy and does nothing to damage Andrews.
We shall see. My hunch is that savvy voters who distrust Sinn Fein will also reject FG's petulant plan to take out Lucinda Creighton.
Such voters should note that, in the past week, Chris Andrews has come under fire from the family of 2005 murder victim Joseph Rafferty.
Lucinda Creighton, Kevin Humphreys and Jim O'Callaghan have all come out strongly against Sinn Fein on all fronts.
But so far I have heard nothing from Kate O'Connell, who judging by her recent personalised attacks, seems to have reserved all her spleen for Lucinda Creighton.
Let's hope voters in Dublin Bay South will take a tough line on Andrews and punish the Fine Gael strategy of targeting Lucinda Creighton, on a par with its poor decision to target Micheal Martin.
By applying my practical voting guide, a good result for democracy in Dublin Bay South would be: Eoghan Murphy (FG), Lucinda Creighton (Renua), Kevin Humphreys (Lab), and Jim O'Callaghan (Fianna Fail).
Let us also hope voters repeat that pattern nationally, as far as possible - but giving priority to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail and a stable Irish democracy.