Sunday 8 December 2019

It's a dogfight: and that's just among party leaders

Enda Kenny looks secure, for now, but the elections could destroy his rivals

Taoiseach Enda Kenny canvassing on Thomas Street, Limerick, on Friday where he was followed by the press, locals and Anti Austerity Alliance members. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22
Taoiseach Enda Kenny canvassing on Thomas Street, Limerick, on Friday where he was followed by the press, locals and Anti Austerity Alliance members. Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22

John Drennan

As the European and local elections hove ever closer into view, for some strange reason the old nursery rhyme about Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat came to mind last week.

Certainly the one sure thing in a uniquely uncertain landscape is that when it comes to our political leaders a lot of previously plump political geese are facing a rigorous plucking.

This is particularly the case in the high-profile European elections.

In that regard surprisingly even 'Dear Leader' Enda, who in the New Year would presumably have 'bet the house' on Fine Gael at least winning the most seats in Europe, has entered the frame.

Originally the target might have been five, consisting of one in Dublin and two in each of the other constituencies but the intense competition in Midlands North West means that has now been reduced to four.

However, as FG falls more steadily than rain in an Irish summer, suddenly the uncertain poll ratings of Brian Hayes in Dublin, the March of Ming in the North and a depressed vote in the South mean FG might win as few as two seats.

For now Mr Kenny is in such an impregnable position FG could finish third behind Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail and he would still absorb such losses.

But if 'Dear Leader' Enda ends up in the cheap seats behind Sinn Fein, historians may yet talk about 2014 representing the beginning of the end of the Enda experiment.

And that of course is before we get to the council seats debacle; for, if a sufficient number of FG TDs return a few councillors lighter, the next question would be how lightly will 'Dear Leader' Enda wear his crown?

However, Enda's difficulties are unlikely to morph into Fianna Fail's opportunity.

Despite all the clever spin about Dublin being peripheral to FF's EU ambitions, Micheal will be in the political equivalent of a bath-chair with faulty brakes heading towards the cliffs if FF loses out there.

But could it be the case that the party might only win its banker in Munster courtesy

of the semi-Independent Brian Crowley's eternal rescue act?

For Micheal, the real nightmare scenario may be that Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy could put the squeeze on Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher in Midlands North West.

Worse still, a depressed FF vote and poor transfers could yet open the door to 'Ming' being shouldered out of the count centre in triumph and FF left clutching a single semi-independent MEP.

It will not be a pretty sight if the 'Dear Leader' Micheal comes back to his dour parliamentary party of chilly pragmatists clutching the burnt offering of one EU seat, no revival in Dublin and a raft of lost council seats.

As Micheal braces himself for a bout of faction-fighting amid his ambitious barons, dark horses and stalking horses, Eamon Gilmore's travails are equally well known.

Up to now, when it comes to the Invisible Tanaiste's leadership, the Labour TDs have been prepared to accept any old flannel.

But, should Emer Costello not survive the Sinn Fein siege of the capital, Labour are left for the first time without a seat in Europe and Gerry Adams is running around kissing the SF jersey, Labour's increasing detachment from the political herd will be dangerously visible.

Should that occur, the Labour leader may have to bundle Cute Old Phil over and take the European Commission route.

One supposes that as consolations go it wouldn't be the worst of them.

Intriguingly, a new horse has now entered the political field of woe, for deep water, of the political variety we stress, may be waiting for Mr Adams too.

Ironically, in the case of Mr Adams, Sinn Fein's emollient start may pose the great threat to the SF leader, for when it comes to the Deep South of the Island project, three seats are now a minimum requirement.

But, what happens if the Sinn Fein surge turns into the political equivalent of a Gilmore gale?

Could it be the case that Gerry, having peaked too soon, will leave us disappointed?

Significantly, none of the three Sinn Fein candidates was, even prior to Mr Adams' mini-break, secure.

Instead, the SF 'Cinderella girl' in Dublin and their SF 'Munster Mum' were in the scenario where, terribly like Mary Lou McDonald back in 2009, they could begin at the top end of the count and still be gazumped for the final seats.

Amidst all these stark Euro scenarios only one thing is certain.

It may not be the case for all the leaders but for some, at least, it is going to be a long, hot summer – should they even make it that far.

Sunday Independent

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