Thursday 14 December 2017

Blood all over Kildare Street as Fianna Fáil TDs feel the voters' wrath

Who: Fianna Fáil. Who? Precisely. They're something of an endangered species these days.

Hang on, isn't Fianna Fáil the legendary party of power, the crowd

who've run the show for the last 14 years? Fianna Fáil was the party of power but they were also the crowd who brought in the IMF last year and so were duly punished for it by a livid electorate.

So they didn't make one of their miraculous comebacks, like in 2007? Quite the opposite. Although the opinion polls had been predicting a bad outcome for the party for some time in the run-up to polling day, nobody predicted the scale of the bloodbath.

What happened to them all? Oh it wasn't pretty. No fewer than 35 Fianna Fáil deputies lost their seats, with the meltdown particularly severe in Dublin.

Surely the ministers were OK though? Not a bit of it -- two of the biggest casualties on the day were Tánaiste Mary Coughlan and Minister for Fun Mary Hanafin, who only recently had been appointed as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil by its new leader Micheál Martin. And Minister for Community and Equality Pat Carey and chief whip John Curran also bit the dust.

And what of the other ministers? Well Brian Lenihan hung on in Dublin West by the skin of his teeth, as did Eamon ó Cuív in Galway West and Brendan Smith in Cavan-Monaghan, but there was serious attrition among the junior ministers including (deep breath) Barry Andrews, John Moloney, Martin Mansergh, Conor Lenihan, Peter Power and -- after a long recount -- doughty Dick Roche in Wicklow.

Good grief. But surely Micheál was safe? He and Willie O'Dea in Limerick city were probably the only two who were reasonably sure of returning to Leinster House. Micheál even managed to bring in his running-mate Micheál McGrath in Cork South Central.

And surely the unsinkable Mary O'Rourke survived? No, Longford Westmeath's feisty Mammy of the 30th Dáil was eliminated on the second count, with the seats going to two Fine Gael candidates, one Labour and the last to that rare creature, Fianna Fáil newbie Robert Troy.

Ah well, at least yer man Cowen got back in Laois-Offaly? Well, yes and no. A Cowen was indeed elected, but it wasn't our outgoing Taoiseach Brian as he announced his retirement from politics shortly before the election. It was his brother Barry who took the seat in a messy battle.

So how many Fianna Fáil TDs survived the massacre? There is a mere 20 in total now left standing, including the Ceann Comhairle Séamus Kirk, who was automatically returned. And there are only two newly elected members among them, Robert Troy and also Charlie McConalogue in Donegal North East.

Surely they must've all been devastated? Naturally. As the election count on Saturday began to reveal the full extent of the carnage, a woebegone former Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe (one of the slew of ministers who stepped down in the chaotic days that gripped the party in late January) said: "It's like Fianna Fáil has been hit by a tsunami."

So what now for the devastated and tattered troops of the Soldiers of Destiny? Well, Micheál Martin has already pledged to begin the process of rebuilding the party, which will take some doing and many years.

Where will they sit in the 31st Dáil? Good question. They'll most likely occupy the front couple of opposition rows, where Fine Gael sat for so long. But they're going to be surrounded by 14 noisy Shinners, a handful of socialists and all sorts of rowdy characters among the 15 newly elected Independents.

It's going to be very strange for them, isn't it? Indubitably. But strangest of all, they're now going to have to address Enda Kenny as 'Taoiseach'.

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