News John Downing

Saturday 22 October 2016

After that dreary campaign, keep a good eye on the weather today

Published 26/02/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny, Joan Burton, Micheal Martin and Gerry Adams
Enda Kenny, Joan Burton, Micheal Martin and Gerry Adams
The party promises

Now that slow-bicycle race of a campaign is over, we can turn to a more interesting political question: Will it rain, or, will it shine?

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Election discussions start with issues of high policy - but often end with detailed consideration of the weather. The weather has also prompted more interesting conversations over the past 21 days than "Election 2016," but let's leave aside matters meteorological for a moment.

Describing the campaign as "dull" would be unduly cruel to that dreary little word. Perhaps the dreariness was in part caused by the long lead-in, we were after all in campaign mode since the end of last summer.

And bar an early start gun - which almost happened in November - we knew the election had to be held round about now. We can also blame the sanitised nature of our modern politics, where professional politicians are schooled to talk in carefully planned and modulated soundbites.

The nearest we came to "lively" was the rather exuberant offerings of Alan "AK-47" Kelly who told us of his appetite for power among other things, all in week one.

Then, suddenly, Mr Kelly disappeared off the national stage and went into his considerable local war to keep a Labour seat in the newly merged five-seat Tipperary.

Why the Kelly disappearing act happened, we may know definitively in times to come. For now, we suspect the Labour spindoctors.

There were Enda Kenny's three gaffes. On day one he showed he did not understand the so-called "fiscal space" - otherwise known as how much spare cash the new government would have.

Then he was strangely reluctant on definitively nailing the door shut on potential power-sharing with Fianna Fáil. Finally, he appeared to call his Castlebar neighbours "whingers" and took several days to say he meant only the Fianna Fáil neighbours.

We also had further evidence of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams' problems in coming to terms with how things work in this jurisdiction.

He has visited frequently over the past four decades and been around Leinster House for the last five years.

But he's still learning - slowly - and there were suggestions that some remedial arithmetic classes might help him in this task. Sinn Féin will have a good election compared with 2011 when they had 10pc of the vote and returned 14 TDs.

They hoped to double the vote and seriously raise the TD numbers. But now on 15pc they will be lucky to have TD numbers in the mid-20s.

None of the dreariness helped engage a slightly bemused and listless public. This is despite the huge viewership figures for the televised leaders' debates which showed the potential to catch people's imaginations.

With the exception of Fianna Fáil, all the parties appeared to be at least stalled, or going backwards over the three-week effort. That is all the more extraordinary when you consider that the "big four" are expected to spend some €10m on the campaign.

Fianna Fáil, with poll percentages in the early 20s can hope to have around 35 TDs. Fine Gael can still hope to break 50 seats but Labour may not break double figures and get much above a dozen.

Their chances of assembling a government are not good. We look to those diverse "Independents and Others" who will make up the rest. Voter-turnout is going to be a big factor and weather on the day is a big feature of turnout.

Turnout involves the following unchanging pattern: slow to start; brisker around lunchtime; a surge at teatime, followed by a lull; and then the final push just before polls close.

The only variant would be heavy rain at lunchtime, or especially at teatime, and/or just before close of polls.

The clerk of the weather can decide to help a beleaguered government campaign by turning on the taps. Or, boost the up-and- coming agents of change with clear skies and benign temperatures.

In the former East Germany, the government had a remedy for that. High among the jaw-dropping revelations which followed German Reunification in 1990 was news that weather forecasts were rigged to boost public attendance on big days like mass military parades, when temperatures could be hiked by up to five degrees.

Some Irish politicians might wistfully yearn for such weather information powers today.

But they are not going to openly say so, at least not today of all days.

The party promises

Fine Gael

Abolish USC and introduce a 5pc tax on incomes over €100,000

Hire 10,000 gardaí, doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers

Set up a citizens’ assembly to examine the Eighth Amendment

Extend free GP care to everyone under 18

Ensure all workers are paid at least €11.75 an hour


Abolish USC up to €72,000

Free GP care for all

Reduce childcare costs to €80 per week

Hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment

Hire 5,500 healthcare staff

Fianna Fáil

Abolish USC up to €80,000

Impose mandatory three-year sentences for burglary

Establish a ‘rainy day’ fund

Increase the pension by €30

Force banks to reduce excessive mortgage rates

Sinn Féin

Abolish water charges and property tax

Increasing spending on health by €3.3bn

Hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment

Abolish the Special Criminal Court

Have a Cabinet minister responsible for the Irish language

Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit

Clampdown on ‘tax exiles’

Scrap registration fees for third-level colleges

Force Nama to provide more social and affordable housing

Hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment

Officially recognise Traveller ethnicity

Social Democrats

Retain USC

Abolish water charges

Paid parental leave for first 12 months after birth

Hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment

Build an Irish National Health Service

Renua Ireland

Introduce a 23pc flat tax

Put €1bn into community crèches

A three-strike rule for serious criminal offences

Abolish motor tax and the TV licence

Restore town mayors and local councils

Green Party

Invent €300m in third-level institutions

Subsided childcare for under threes

Increase funding for GP services

Replace property tax with a site valuation tax

Hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment

Irish Independent

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