Thursday 17 October 2019

Elections 2019 analysis to date: the good, the bad, and the downright awful

  • Taoiseach is now not ruling out a general election – again
  • A multitude of problems for Mary-Lou McDonald
  • The Greens have their greatest day
Brothers Harry (10), Hugh (6) and Rory (5) Munnelly keep an eye on their dad's Cllr Jarlath Munnelly votes count at the Castlebar count centre
Pic:Mark Condren
Brothers Harry (10), Hugh (6) and Rory (5) Munnelly keep an eye on their dad's Cllr Jarlath Munnelly votes count at the Castlebar count centre Pic:Mark Condren

Fionnán Sheahan

UNLESS you’re in the Green Party, there’s not a whole lot to cheer about from the local and European elections.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil weren’t exactly rewarded for holding the centre ground as the main parties failed to assert their authority on the electorate.

The Labour Party is hardly back in action and Sinn Féin has suffered its biggest setback since the end of the Troubles.

Here’s the state of the parties after elections 2019.

Fine Gael: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is now not ruling out a general election – again.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar chats with party colleagues at the election count in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

The ongoing guessing game is becoming tedious and making Varadkar seem indecisive and unsure of his strategy.

The Grand Old Duke of Castleknock and his acolytes can’t just keep threatening to pull the plug on his coalition of the unwilling with Fianna Fail.

On the back of these results, the party won’t be relishing going to the polls anyway.

Fine Gael’s vote is up slightly, and they will probably come back with more seats at council level as boundary changes suited the big parties.

Worryingly though for Fine Gael there was no ‘Leo Leap’ in Varadkar’s first electoral contest.

The result has all the hallmarks of an electorate getting impatient with a jaded Government in its second term of office, and looking tired, stagnant and unable to make tough decisions.

It’s hardly helped by the restrictions of confidence and supply and New Politics where the lack of a clear Dáil majority makes taking decisions nigh impossible.

Something's got to give.

The concern for Fine Gael in the capital will be the losses in middle class areas to the Greens.

Attempting to talk climate change will be difficult as the Greens own the environmental stage.

Ironically, the metropolitan leadership of the party managed to lose in Dublin and hold its own in the rest of the country.

The European elections are a mixed bag.

There’s a potential gain in Ireland Midlands-North-West through Maria Walsh joining Mairead McGuinness, which is more to do with different styles of personal branding than vote management.

But the possible loss of a seat in Ireland South has been on the cards for years with little being done to stave it off.

The controversies around broadband, infrastructure and the national children’s hospital haven’t so much damaged the reputation for fiscal rectitude but more given a sense there’s no one in control.

The problem with an economic boom is it bring quality of life issues around transport and school services.

Health remains a continual bugbear but the failure to grasp the import of housing and get to grips with it is really costing the party credibility with the public.

Varadkar has the task now of trying to balance the competing priorities of the urban young middle classes on board, while also maintaining the party’s regional base.

But the urban-rural divide was ever thus in Fine Gael, so he can’t claim it’s a new development.

Maria Bailey’s swing case antics added to the negative sentiment about the party in the week of the elections and certainly exacerbated the feeling the party hierarchy is out of touch with a sense of entitlement.

A reshuffle certainly wouldn’t go astray with Eoghan Murphy and Simon Harris well due a move out of their trouble spots into less challenging areas to meet their all talk and little action styles.

As of now: 24.7pc – up 1.1pc.

Fianna Fáil: It’s not a bad weekend at all for Micheál Martin.

Fianna Fail party leader Micheal Martin TD pictured at the Ireland South constituency and local election count in Nemo Rangers Sports Centre, Cork. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Fianna Fáil’s result is hardly spectacular but it’s another stepping stone on the comeback.

The party has copper-fastened its status as the largest party at council level in the country.

Martin’s party has made a recovery in Dublin, reclaimed its working class credentials and strategically putting it in position to make target Dáil seats in Dublin Central, Dublin North-West, Dublin Rathdown and Dun Laoghaire.

The late Seamus Brennan always said Dublin was the cockpit of any general election victory due to the number of seats in the capital.

On the European elections front, the party will probably elect two MEPs with Barry Andrews in Dublin and Billy Kelleher in Ireland South, where Malcolm Byrne is also in contention.

The failure to win a seat in Ireland Midlands-North-West can be partially blamed on the party grassroots members but the bad candidate selection choices have to be spread across the board.

A bigger, longer-term problem for Fianna Fáil is the failure to attract younger voters as those under 35 people don’t seem to identify with Micheál Martin’s party.

An element of gender blindness also doesn’t help the party’s chances.

As of now: 26.7pc – up 1.7pc

Sinn Fein: A multitude of problems for Mary-Lou McDonald combined to deliver a dreadful weekend for Sinn Féin.

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks to the media as votes are counted (Niall Carson/PA)

From organisation to messaging, regime change to delivery, the party suffered a calamitous result.

The loss of half its vote in the stronghold of Dublin City summarises the problem.

The failure to get the vote out points to an issues with its working class base and its inability to mobilise the core support in the post-Gerry Adams era.

The party’s drift to the mainstream on backing referendums and availability to enter coalition government hasn’t reaped any reward.

A bad day was compounded by the loss of seats to former councillors who left either through differences over policy or the raft of bullying accusations within the party.

Brexit has put the spotlight on the party’s policy of not taking up its seats in Westminister, the ongoing stagnation on the Northern Ireland Executive and its position on the European Union.

Suddenly, the party which has opposed every EU referendum for 45 years is pro-European but still critical of the EU. The nuanced position isn’t winning any plaudits.

After a flop in the Presidential elections, McDonald’s ability to move the party forward is now in question.

And the warning signs are now there for seats in peril in a general election scenario.

Suddenly, the hunter becomes the prey.

As of now: 9.6pc - down 6.1pc

Green Party: After a lost decade following the retribution exacted on the Greens by the voters during the economic crash, Eamon Ryan’s party had its greatest day.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, left, and candidate Ciaran Cuffe, right, at the count in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

The Green agenda is firmly on the table and the party presents a coalition option after the next general election.

The Greens became the biggest winner from the local and European elections, but it was more accentuated in Dublin than the rest of the country.

The party has become the new PDs for Fine Gael, a kryptonite capable of taking away middle class votes.

The result mean it will be in contention for seats in Dublin West with Roderic O’Gorman and Dun Laoghaire, where they have a glut of options, and Dublin Bay North or Dublin North.

The European elections will be quite the coup if the party manages to take three seats and implies their message is resonating right across the country.

As of now: 5.8pc - up 4.1pc

Labour Party: While not as bad as the bloodletting of five years ago, there’s little sign of recovery from Brendan Howlin’s party.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin pictured with Clr Duncan Smith from Swords Fingal at the Citywest Count Center Photo: Frank McGrath

There were sporadic victories here and there, like a good performance in Drogheda, Co Louth and holding its own on Dublin City Council.

The European elections were also a washout though.

And the party is now floundering around seeking alliances with the Greens and the Social Democrats, a sort of progressive left block to separate them from the hard left.

It’s hard to see it coming about.

As of now: 6pc – down 1.5pc

The rest: The fragmentation of the left-wing vote continues.

Mick Wallace and Claire Daly TDs with Socialist party Dean Mulligan who wins a seat for Swords at the local election count centre in City West. Photo: Tony Gavin

Independents Clare Daly and Mick Wallace are poised to win seats in Europe, but that’s the only real highlight for the left from these elections.

The Social Democrats did register on the map, concentrated mainly in Dublin, but also spreading to Wicklow and Galway.

Solidarity-People Before Profit had a bad day though, dropping support and seats.

And across the country, the Independent brand overall lost support, but it largely depended on local factors as the Healys-Rae, Mattie McGrath and Michael Lowry camps all had good results.

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