Wednesday 26 October 2016

Micheál's ambitions defy the new Dáil arithmetic

Published 15/09/2015 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin swaps a story with Bobby Aylward at the start of the Fianna Fáil think-in
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin swaps a story with Bobby Aylward at the start of the Fianna Fáil think-in

Might as well aim for the top seems to be Micheál Martin's theme for the new political term ahead of a general election.

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But it is hard to see how he can make the political arithmetic add up to make him the anchor tenant in Government Buildings.

The Fianna Fáil leader was parading his TDs and senators ahead of the new Dáil term when he was asked if in reality the choice of the next Taoiseach was a straight contest between himself and Enda Kenny.

"Yes, absolutely. I think that is the bottom line in terms of the Taoiseach," he said, seamlessly moving on to challenge Mr Kenny to a public debate on the issues which matter to ordinary citizens.

He accused the Fine Gael strategists of already hiding an accident-prone Mr Kenny as their nascent election campaign takes shape.

The Fianna Fáil leader is certainly not lacking in the courage department.

But all the opinion polls have his party stuck close to the 17pc that it got in the extraordinary electoral meltdown of February 2011.

Mr Martin fights the good fight on this one, pointing out that the only vote that counts is the one on election day.

He argues that the May 2014 local council elections saw his party emerge as the largest, with 25pc of the vote and 266 seats.

He understandably glosses over the fact that it failed to win six by-elections at a time when the Government was extremely unpopular and prefers to emphasise a good Fianna Fáil win in Carlow-Kilkenny last May.

So how well does he think Fianna Fáil may do in the coming general election?

Yesterday on Newstalk radio, he dropped his usual reticence about Dáil seat predictions to indicate that he would be well pleased with a haul of 45 TDs after the next election.

Two things about that 45 Fianna Fáil TDs scenario.

First is that Micheál Martin would have very good grounds to be well pleased, as it is about 10 seats ahead of even the more optimistic predictions emanating from Fianna Fáil sources right now.

Second is that it would take miracle work to make a Taoiseach off the back of it.

Let's keep this one simple.

There will be 158 TDs in the next Dáil. To be Taoiseach, you need the votes of 79 TDs. So he would need to get another 34.

Bear in mind that Mr Martin has again insisted that he will not share government with either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.

Also bear in mind that all those declarations will be up for change when the new Dáil convenes and it becomes a game of '79-plus'.

But let's hold that thought for another day.

Where would potential Taoiseach Martin assemble his other votes? He was not enthusiastic about Lucinda Creighton's Renua Ireland.

"I'd have thought maybe with others. There's a whole range of parties out there. There's a lot of independents going forward as well.

"I think it's fair to say that we have perhaps one of the more fragmented political landscapes that we've had for a long time. So it's very open," he opined.

In summary, Mr Martin is talking up a long shot. Yes, long shots sometimes win and we live in strange political times. But his scenario defies current political arithmetic.

Another proposition is more certain. Mr Martin will not get a debate with the Taoiseach any time soon.

Irish Independent

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