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All still possible in race to top - or bottom - as bell rings for 2016


Lucinda Creighton

Lucinda Creighton

David Conachy

Lucinda Creighton

As we enter the championship laps of the 5,000-metre dash from Election 2011 to the proposed 2016 finish, the strangest thing about the political scene is that hope still exists for all of our political parties.

This is surprising, for back in 2011 the smart money was on the immolation of Fianna Fail.

The self-same punters then swiftly took out a side-bet on Labour experiencing a similar fate, when they started to look even sicklier than the Greens during the Biffo era.

Now, though, out of no-where, Irish politics has entered a curious point of uncertainty where all parties, yes, even Labour, can dare to hope.

Lest any of them get carried away, it should be noted that the voters are uncertain in a chilly sort of way.

One of the more distasteful habits of the male gurrier is, when a couple of plain ladies walk past, to smirkingly comment, "I don't fancy yours very much".

Our most recent Millward Brown poll suggests that when it comes to our political parties, the voters don't 'fancy' the current menu very much either.

Fine Gael's status as the top dogs of the opinion polls may mean 'Dear Leader' Enda is letting his mini-Haughey show again.

Close observers of Mr Kenny noted that despite all of his travails last week: "Bad Enda is back. He thinks he is out the gap and home and hosed for the election."

However, much weight informs Labour's growing concerns that Fine Gael is about to repeat the strange trick of squandering every red cent of political gain that was available after the Troika exit.

If Mr Kenny is not careful, FG is vulnerable to experiencing a reprise of the local election result where, almost by accident, it lost its number-one status to Fianna Fail.

The latter, meanwhile, continues to resemble a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

In terms of voter support, Fianna Fail has remained as becalmed as Coleridge's famous "painted ship upon a painted ocean".

But a party that seemed fated to replicate the poignant voyage of the Irish Parliamentary Party is still uneasily ensconced in the big three as the bell rings for the final lap.

Intriguingly, the little bit of modest prosperity we are experiencing has done nothing to ameliorate the rise in Sinn Fein's support.

The conventional parties will hope that Paddy returns to his natural conservatism as the economy improves.

But, given that the last bout of prosperity in the Celtic Tiger turned us all mad, could it be the case that wealth will release the Irish irresponsibility gene?

No matter what happens, the Sinn Fein sweet-talking Scientologists appear to be on course to secure a Gilmore -gale-style result.

And unlike poor Mr Gilmore and Labour, that particular ball of wind is unlikely to deflate.

Ultimately, the two most intriguing groupings of all are the outwardly peripheral Independents and the eternally consumptive Labour party.

The latter is still detached from the pack, but from a long way out, the goal of Labour has been to merely finish the race.

However, should it manage a strong fourth place, Labour, with 18 seats, would be in the box seats to form a new coalition.

Our strange gathering of Independents may ultimately play the biggest role of all in the constitution of the next administration.

It is easy to patronise Independents as being the equivalent of loose runners in the Grand National.

However, many favourites have been laid low by a horse without a jockey running across the fences at the last minute.

And as the right, the left, the centre, the opportunistic, the dynastic and those who can't decide whether they are a party or not, go to war with each other, one small point should be kept in mind.

Irish politics is at a point of equivocation where no party can be at ease with where it is or lose all faith either.

As of now though all roads appear to point to the likelihood of a 'plus ca change plus ca le meme chose' abstentionist SF post-electoral position.

This means that a FG/Labour bloc or a FF/Labour union would be likely to be six to eight seats short of a working majority.

We may, in short, end up in a similar position to 1995 where a three-party combination of Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left was required to form a government.

For now, the two politicians who are most likely to secure such a critical mass of support are Lucinda and Shane Ross.

Wouldn't it indeed be a delightful sight if Enda had to go cap in hand to both of those to secure the necessary support to see our man through to the Presidential race in 2017?

Some might almost call it karma.

And seeing as the other one went so well, wouldn't it be nice to have a new Troika back in charge after 2016?

Sunday Independent