News Politics

Tuesday 26 March 2019

As they hatch their plans, what might be the hopes and ambitions of our party schemers?

Mick Wallace
Mick Wallace
Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin
Independent TDs Catherine Murphy, John Halligan, Finian McGrath, Shane Ross, Mattie McGrath and Stephen Donnelly
Mary Lou McDonald and Joan Burton

John Drennan

We know all about the fears driving our political classes, but what amidst all the plots, subterfuges and disclaimers would actually represent the 'perfect day' for our various political parties when the votes are counted?


They are languishing in the polls but this is a place Fianna Fail has been before.

Prior to the 2014 local elections the ides were dark for Dear Leader Micheal to such an extent even the grim prophet John McGuinness could dream of wearing the leader's crown. Then, for no apparently obvious reason beyond habit and the gathering implosion of Fine Gael, our Cork hero came from nowhere to win the crown.

It was a great result for Micheal and increasingly the government parties are of the view that it wasn't a bad result for them too.

Instead of building on their accidental victory, FF have visibly flat-lined to the extent where that grand old party dowager Mary Hanafin admitted she and the public couldn't recognise most of the front-bench. The party may be hoping that if they remain quiet, and still, and innocuous that they might surprise again.

Given that they have been as relevant to recent political furores as Switzerland in World War II it is the only tactic they can utilise.


Such a result might not exactly be a perfect day for Fine Gael and Labour.

However, after all that has passed, the wiser wings of Fine Gael and Labour are hoping and praying that enough of the unloved duo survives to create a coherent mass of seventy or so TDs.

Although that would not be enough for a majority it should suffice to see off the Sinn Fein - Fianna Fail threat.

That done the aim will be to annex one of the Independent satellites, if they win a few seats, and allow Enda that cherished second term as Taoiseach.

The Independents will of course be allowed to be the watchdogs (anyone for Shane Ross as our new Minister for Ethics) whilst the Fine Gael and Labour old dogs snaffle the big prizes.

That at least is the theory of it and on balance it is as of now the likeliest prospect of all.

Be careful of what you wish for though Enda. You might get it.

And then the trouble really will start.


Those who dream of the delights of a Sinn Fein-led Coalition mostly belong to the Fifty Shades of Grey wing of politics.

They are not members of Sinn Fein either for Sinn Fein you see are not at all enthused by being, er, handcuffed into government even if they do become the, ahem, dominant partner.

John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

The sharper brains in Sinn Fein know that the party, both in terms of structure and ideology, is not yet ready for power.

Those instead who dream of Sinn Fein being chained to government are aroused by the pain our political Scientologists will experience if they actually have to govern the country with a treasonous FF Junior partner or Mick Wallace, Finian and the lads.

Given that Sinn Fein are not precisely enthused by such a notion themselves, few can blame those who take some illicit pleasure from the promise of Sinn Fein wriggling on the hook of fifty different u-turns, if they have to grasp the nettle of governance.

Be careful though.

Such was also the expectation when Sinn Fein came into power in the North and we saw how well that went.


Cynics will say the phrase 'united left' is a contradiction in terms and who are we to disagree.

That said, the dream of Jack O'Connor that someday a reformed Sinn Fein and a still strong Labour will unite to lead Ireland's first left wing government is not as impossible as the 'experts' think.

Given the mess the conservative civil war parties have made of running the Irish state since independence it is a proposal with some merits.

The problem, outside of the notion of a reformed Sinn Fein, is that for now Labour and Sinn Fein have a similar relationship to piranhas in a landlocked pool.

This means that unless the Fianna Fail carcass tumbles into the electoral pool they will do too much damage to each-other to ever be strong enough to form such a Coalition.

Mind you, were Labour to hold and Sinn Fein to advance at the expense of the current Independent vote, stranger things have happened in the Irish political Twilight Zone.

The problem with that concept is the conservative Irish electorate are like the sort of wary old fish that, in clear water, like to tease small children by swimming towards the bait before swiftly moving away from strange looking things wriggling on poorly disguised hooks.

Labour too will, outside of the many moral and ethical reasons that scream no to Sinn Fein in government, be all too well aware of the fate of the SDLP after it went under the covers with the Sinn Fein python.


When it comes to the notion of 'King Enda' shaking a triumphant fist and saying 'I told you so' outside of the aestethics of the thing, the numbers game alone tempts us to say 'dream on baby'.

The tectonic plates though are moving and they are moving in the Coalition's direction.

The dual problem they face, we suspect is that a gag factor will enter affairs, once Fine Gael and Labour reach the level of support required to win more than seventy seats.

If FG sticks at somewhere in the 25 per cent margin and Labour secures support levels of more than 10 per cent then the seventy seat objective is achievable.

The problem for both is that Fine Gael and Labour if they are to win those remaining seats will have to put on another 10 per cent between them to secure a majority.

It should be noted though that if we experience the zephyr of a year of modest prosperity and the opposition continue to live down to our expectations this is not an impossible dream.


For some, though definitely not the parties who are actually involved, the notion that the election might force Fianna Gael and Fine Fail to do the decent thing is attractive.

In theory, given the similarities between the duo, this should not be a problem.

The practice of the thing will be substantially different.

Maybe, Leo's sanguine observation that like gay marriage it might seem odd at first and then everyone would get used to it.

One fears though that whilst we are mature enough to deal with gay marriage, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail might not yet be sufficiently evolved to make a success of post civil war partnership.

The biggest problem with making an honest woman of each other is the not immaterial issue of who would be the dominant spouse.

However, any marriage born out of a rout of the two big parties would also be inherently unstable given that neither would be emerging with an electoral mandate.

We might be ready for men in frocks pledging their troth.

But, Enda and Micheal peeking out at the world from under the same duvet, winking and nodding at us really is a step too far.

Sunday Independent

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