Sunday 23 October 2016

Why prospect of a second poll makes (most) TDs nervous

Published 12/04/2016 | 02:30

As the stalemate drags on, another election might be unavoidable. Photo: Erwin Wodicka / Depositphotos
As the stalemate drags on, another election might be unavoidable. Photo: Erwin Wodicka / Depositphotos

NOBODY wants another election, everybody at Leinster House keeps insisting. But fear is rising that, as stalemate drags on and things take on their own momentum, an election might be unavoidable.

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Another day at the polling booths so soon after the February vote may change very little in some constituencies. But in other areas, a lot could alter - making TDs somewhat nervous.

1) Leader changes: An early election would hurry leadership changes in the Labour Party - and very probably in Fine Gael. Labour leader Joan Burton's days are numbered already.

Enda Kenny's leadership is safe only as long as he is a putative Taoiseach working on government-making. Both Burton (67) and Kenny, who is almost 65, might then have big decisions to make.

2) Revolving newcomers: Another poll would be very bad news for all 158 TDs - bar Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who as new Ceann Comhairle is automatically re-elected. Even worse news for the 52 newcomers, many of whom borrowed heavily for expensive campaigns. It would also strain campaign teams who voluntarily gave weeks to the last canvass.

3) Learning lessons: All parties, especially the bigger ones, would hope to learn the strategic lessons of February 26. Sinn Féin would immediately set about returning Pádraig MacLochlainn to Donegal. They would be intensifying canvasses in other places where their candidates "hit the crossbar".

4) More or less: Fianna Fáil will also be looking at places where they ran too few and too many candidates. In four-seat Dún Laoghaire, for example, they would fancy just one candidate could win. In three-seat Offaly a better organised campaign could unseat Sinn Féin. One of the two Limerick constituencies might merit a second candidate. Do not rule out a third Healy-Rae in Kerry.

5) The fallen arise: Labour would be among those hoping big name casualties could win back. These include Kevin Humphreys, Kathleen Lynch, Ciarán Lynch and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. But their national brand remains seriously dented. Other 'Lazarus hopefuls' are across all parties and Independents. Renua duo Lucinda Creighton and Billy Timmins can also hope on that basis.

6) Fine Gael nearlies: Marathon recount loser James Bannon has a ready-made slogan: "Longford needs a TD." Limerick City's Kieran O'Donnell might be luckier also, and so too might Cork South Central's Jerry Buttimer and Tipperary's Tom Hayes. Former minister Alan Shatter will be among those leading calls for better campaign discipline. Across all parties it may be internal replacements, leaving party fortunes largely unchanged.

7) More stalemate: Another election would bring big changes for some individual politicians, rescuing some careers, while ending others. It may even deliver a blow to specific parties and lift others. Taking the bigger picture, however, it is very unlikely that another election would resolve our national dilemma of a hung Dáil.

8) The blame game: Much of this assumes that no one group is blamed for causing an early election. Voters will punish a party or group if they decide it did not try to make a government. Fianna Fáil are currently most vulnerable here. But Fine Gael could also suffer.

Otherwise, Sinn Féin was first to bid for opposition and the AAA-PBP acted similarly.

There is also a possibility voters may slope back to bigger parties for stability.

Irish Independent

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