Thursday 27 October 2016

Fionnan Sheahan: Lefties, not luvvies, are poised to be big winners

Published 31/01/2011 | 07:36

‘You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is "never try".' The intelligentsia of the aborted Luvvies Party have doubtless read the extended works of the ancient Greek epic poet, Homer.

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But to the plain ordinary people of Ireland, the decision of an assortment of celebrity candidates not to contest this election, because it was called three weeks early, was straight out of the rule book of Homer Simpson, as quoted above.

Despite the failure of the Democracy Now movement to get off the ground, there are still an array of candidates and choices outside the main political parties.

And the opinion polls are showing there are plenty of seats still up for grabs in the 2011 General Election.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's efforts to stem the party's losses delivered differing results yesterday.

His success in getting Noel O'Flynn to stand down to ensure Billy Kelleher would hold on in Cork North-Central was regarded as the new leader showing a ruthless streak.

But just 24 hours before the campaign officially starts Fianna Fail still has a variety of problems across the country in resolving the line-up.

The haemorrhaging of sitting TDs and the failure in some cases to persuade obvious successors to stand as candidates has weakened the party before the postering, dropping and canvassing even begins properly. Fianna Fail always claimed when the general election came it would have candidates in the field who would maximise the party vote, but this claim appears to be in tatters.

Surrounded by his fellow 102 Fine Gael candidates, party leader Enda Kenny appeared confident yesterday of having the line-up to make substantial gains.

Under Kenny's leadership, Fine Gael has developed the best party organisation in the country, at least ensuring if the national swing goes their way, the party has candidates in place with adequate support to squeeze the extra votes.

Labour's organisation is a more mixed bag, with the strength shown in Dublin, Leinster and parts of Munster not replicated west of the Shannon. Eamon Gilmore has relied on rent-a-candidate tactics to ensure a name with local profile is on the ticket.

Depending upon the strength of the ‘Gilmore Gale', the party will pick up seats by playing the percentages game.

But the two likely coalition partners are not the only ones profiting from Fianna Fail's decline. Sinn Fein, Joe Higgins’s United Left Alliance (ULA) and a variety of Independents are currently sharing upwards of 25pc of the vote in the opinion polls.

Coming to the start of the general election campaign, onein- four voters is looking beyond the three main parties.

Given the volatility in the support levels and the unchartered waters being entered by Fianna Fail's dramatic fall from grace, it would be foolhardy in the extreme to predict the shakeout for these groups.

What is clear is that there are candidates in every constituency in the country ready to pounce in what could be the evolution of a fourth front in politics.

Sinn Fein's gains in the polls remain strong and Gerry Adams party does have a series of candidates in place to get elected if it holds.

The obvious contenders are Padraig MacLochlainn in Donegal North-East, Mary-Lou McDonald in Dublin Central and Sean Crowe in Dublin South-West.

Party veterans Dessie Ellis in Dublin North-West and Larry O'Toole in Dublin North-East are also facing into their best shot at a seat.

But the next phase of breakthrough candidates includes Brian Stanley in Laois-Offaly, Eoin O Broin in Dublin Mid- West, Peadar Toibin in Meath West, Jonathan O'Brien in Cork North-Central, David Cullinane in Waterford, Martin Kenny in Roscommon-South Leitrim and Kathryn Reilly in Cavan-Monaghan. Mr Higgins's ULA has grouped a number of left-wing candidates under the same umbrella. But a number of these candidates have solid track records. Coming back with up to a half dozen seats is not beyond the bounds of possibilities when you factor in the challenges of Mr Higgins, Clare Daly in Dublin North, Seamus Healy in Tipperary South, Joan Collins in Dublin South-Central, Mick Murphy in Dublin South-West and Mick Barry in Cork North- Central.

The traditional view of Independents as being mainly interested in what investment they can secure for their constituents is constantly under question.

A new breed of right-leaning Independents, interested in fiscal responsibility are emerging, led by Shane Ross in Dublin South.

Similar economic sentiments are coming from Paul Sommerville in Dublin South-East, Stephen Donnelly in Wicklow and Keith Redmond in Dublin North-East.

But a core of hard-grafting Independents, who have worked the ground for years are also in contention. Catherine Murphy in Kildare North, John Halligan in Waterford, Sean Canney in Galway East and Catherine Connolly in Galway West and Luke ‘Ming' Flanagan in Roscommon-South Leitrim are among the ones to watch.

Unlike their would-be highbrow counterparts in the Dublin cognoscenti, these Independents have never been afraid to get their hands dirty by meeting real people, knocking on doors and dropping leaflets to represent their communities.

Not taken by surprise at the arrival of the election, they feel their day is about to come.

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