Dáil in session: Here are the challenges facing the eight main political groups
The Dáil is back, Leo Varadkar is 100 days in office, and we’re just three weeks away from the Budget. However, few believe the new term will bring any major changes to the ‘Do Nothing Dáil’ and there’s a growing sense in the political parties that we are heading for an election next year. Kevin Doyle and John Downing cast their eyes over the state of the parties after their summer break.
The summer gave Taoiseach Leo Varadkar chances to roll out his ‘vision’ for Ireland, summated in his ‘Republic of Opportunities’ slogan. Fine Gael are in a happy mood heading back to Leinster House but the time for big ideas is over. Mr Varadkar must deal with the nitty-gritty of housing and homelessness. As winter beckons he will pray for a mild weather to mitigate a hospital crisis.
First big test is the Budget on October 10. It will be hard to deliver on a lot of difficult promises already made.
Micheál Martin’s party has a simple attack plan: target Varadkar’s spin machine. They want to cast the new Taoiseach as all style and little substance. Sources say Mr Martin believes Fine Gael has pulled back from the idea of an early election. The attitude of TDs at their think-in was that we’ll be going to polls next summer. With that in mind they will relentlessly criticise the Government’s response to the housing and health crises.
Sinn Féin is starting to contemplate life after Gerry Adams. But he will stand for another leadership coronation in November. After that he has promised to outline a process to select a successor. Mary Lou McDonald is the frontrunner. Expect other political parties to scrutinise her performance more. Fianna Fáil has said she is little more than a parrot for Mr Adams. Sinn Féin are always on an election footing but their inability to re-establish the Northern Assembly will hurt.
The Independent members of government all need a win from the forthcoming budget. Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone was seen as a big victor last year but is under mounting pressure on affordable childcare. Accident-prone Transport Minister Shane Ross will find himself under fire again as he pushes stricter drink-driving laws. On the opposition benches Independents will quickly focus on the next election. Many will left-wing groups trying to squeeze them out.
Cannot presume on their history of recovery from election drubbings after being junior coalition partners. Opinion polls leave them stuck in single digits close to their February 2016 general election meltdown. They need a stronger message.
PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT-SOLIDARITY
This left-wing hybrid has defied pundits to hang together for now. Have used water charge opposition well. They will hope they can keep that issue alive.
The only small party to “resurrect themselves” after Dáil obliteration has set a target of doubling their representation next time out. They have two strong high-profile TDs. Their enemy is bigger parties stealing their policies.
Also with two high-profile TDs they need to build locally in a few constituencies. They can also position themselves as potential coalition participants.