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That election date… and other matters. December 31, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

So there I am reading Dan Boyle’s latest remarks as reported in the Irish Times. First up the election…

“The Finance Bill is going to be published in the middle of January. It will take three to four weeks to process it in both Houses. Our commitment is to leave Government on the passage of the Finance Bill,” Mr Boyle said.

Some might quibble with that. The day they announced their protracted withdrawal from government most of us understood that they were demanding an election to be ‘called in January’.

When the Greens made their declaration of intent last November to withdraw from Government, party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley said: “We believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011.”
Mr Boyle commented: “We were probably over-optimistic in saying that an election could be called in January, rather than for January: there was a lot of confusion that was caused by that.”

But this ‘commitment to leave on the passage of the Finance Bill’ doesn’t quite tally with that formulation. Although there’s wriggle room aplenty in this new analysis.

“We don’t know whether there will be a government in existence for a number of weeks after we leave Government, and we don’t know the choice the Taoiseach will make as regards the length of the election campaign.

“The earliest an election could have been was mid-February and it seems the latest an election could be is late March.”

Hmmm.. what post-GP departure government would that be then. Is this preparing the ground for a minority FF administration to see the Finance Bills to a safe passage?

Anyhow, all this makes all that positioning before Christmas seem, well, a little academic.

There’s more though…

The party will be running in all 43 constituencies in the election, including Cork South-Central, where Mr Boyle himself is a candidate.
“I would be confident that we will have a Green presence in the next Dáil,” he said.

It’s odd. After all that’s happened I find that analysis disappointing, because there’s a part of me that thinks back to the Green Party prior to government and thinks that once upon a time they might have been, due to an internal culture that seemed at least a little different (though never enough, or perhaps too much so, for me to ever be tempted to join them), a bit more straight about their electoral chances and about the situation that they are now in. Sure, they wanted to win seats, but they always seemed to be a fraction more open about matters.

In a way this cross-references with the interview with the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin that I posted up yesterday. As he put it…

‘Somehow the Greens managed to do a complete turnaround and stabilise the Fianna Fáil government, and they have stayed there through thick and thin. It’s a very sad thing.’

And indeed if one looks at their demeanor in government one will note how they made great play about the constraints of being in that government. That too was meant to be a reflection of at least some aspect of an identity that was theirs, and theirs alone.

Let’s be honest. The chances of a Green Party presence in the 31st Dáil is now very very slim indeed. I had expected perhaps one TD, maybe two, to be returned. But on the current figures, as AK/IELB has noted they’d need transfers that simply won’t be there.

And once upon a time one feels that they might have been wiling to face up to this, would have been able to come out and say, ‘look we did certain things, supported certain actions, and we’ve paid an electoral price already and look set to pay a further price at the Election, but.. we think we did the right thing as best we could, and granted we’ve made mistakes…’.

That Green Party, wedded to an almost painfully consensual model, reflective to an extreme and whether one liked it or not was in some perhaps nebulous way appeared distinct from other political formations – at least in internal organization, was an alternative that was sufficiently attractive to attract a vote sufficient to see six TDs elected two Dáil terms in a row.

But that Green Party, and okay, also being honest it’s unlikely that they’d have put it quite that way, seems now to belong to history.

Did it ever really exist? Or is it that shorn of any sort of class analysis that it was simply unable to fix upon a specific socio-political/economic ground upon which to base itself. Because economically the party has been all over the shop.

Or rather given their original positions (anyone remember basic income?) they’ve aligned neatly with the orthodoxy – and this is true of their political attitude as well. Not in everything, but in far too much – and this using the apologia that they could only do so much. Now, that’s true to an extent, unlike the Progressive Democrats they weren’t kicking down an open door politically speaking. But rather than being a genuine irritant in government, an oppositional voice as it were to their partners, they appeared to be absorbed by the system.

That sense of them providing, or articulating, that oppositional voice simply faded away.

I think that that shift is what has so blindsided so many who would have supported them, or given them preferences, in the past. It wasn’t just going into power with Fianna Fáil, it wasn’t just supporting a raft of decisions that one would imagine would have made a progressive party blanche, it’s not just that they stayed on board through thick and thin. It’s that they seem to have undergone a cultural shift, where being in government was seen as almost its own validation, that doing something was always better than doing nothing, or avoiding doing the wrong thing by withdrawing. Where busy busy took precedence over asking whether this was the best possible context or way to be busy busy.

And now?

Perhaps there was no cultural shift. Perhaps it simply was that they weren’t in power. That prior to that they never had to exercise…well, anything. And that once they were in power they aligned with the prevailing modes that are extant there. Form follows function, and so on.

But if that’s the case then that’s an analysis that is depressing for more than just the GP.

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1. EamonnCork - January 5, 2011

What do people on the site think are potentially the most interesting contests in the election? Dun Laoghaire (RBB, Andrews, Hanafin), Dublin North (Daly, Sargent, FF meltdown), Galway West (Connolly v Labour), Donegal South West (Coughlan, Doherty) and Cork North Central (SP, SF) spring to my mind but I’d be interested to know what everyone else thinks.

sonofstan - January 5, 2011

Dublin Central, obviously, not just because its home, but because there’s really only one safe seat, there’s the prospect of no FF or FG, maybe even an all Labour and leftwards slate. After Costello, the remaining three could go to any from Fitzpatrick (if she runs)/ Donahue/ O’Sullivan (if etc.)MLM/ Clancy/Perry, even Christy Burke. And as I typed that, I realised that a seat that hadn’t had female representation since Alice Glenn (before M O’S) could end up with three women.

Lifting eyes from the navel for a second – I’d agree with your choices, but I reckon there’ll be a few total shocks on a Bhamjee scale as well.
There’s a serious possibility of no FF in Tipp N and S and even in Meath W.fr’instance, and the vacuum left by FF, and to a lesser extent the Greens (and the PDs- this is the first election w/o them)may be filled in the oddest ways.

Joe - January 13, 2011

Update from Dublin Central. Cyprian was at my door last night. He had a leaflet for Cyprian Brady TD, FF, with details of his clinics. He is going to help us out with the water situation and the litter problem. First time I ever spoke to him or saw him in the area – he has a pleasant enough way about him. And a big entourage with him.
A sort of historic occasion really – the last round of Bertie’s boys.
It’s on!

2. Joe - January 5, 2011

All politics is local. Dublin Central 4 seats. Candidates:
FG Pascal Donohoe. Lab Joe Costello and Áine Clancy. FF (prob…but the selection will be very interesting) Cyprian Brady and Mary Fitzpatrick. SF Mary Lou McDonald. WP Malachy Steenson. Independents: Maureen O’Sullivan (Gregory Group), Christy Burke (ex SF), Ciaren Perry (ex Working Class Action).
FG and Lab have to be guaranteed one each. But after that it will be fascinating. My prediction would be McDonald and O’Sullivan to take the other two.
As of now, Perry has my no.1 – just tell him not to go public with his views on the North…

EamonnCork - January 5, 2011

All politics is local allright but spare a thought for those of us faced with slates as uninteresting as those in Cork SW. FG 2 FF 1 at the moment as it has been in all but 1 election since 1981, the only possible change Lab instead of FG.

sonofstan - January 5, 2011


I’m not so sure about Paschal…..he should make it, and, going by the rules of the game, he probably ‘deserves’ it in terms of effort,but I don’t think it’s foregone by any means – and the transfers could go anywhere, and where you are when someone down the order is eliminated will be crucial.

Joe - January 6, 2011

SoS. I would bet on Donoghue (enough of this Paschal, he’s a lovely harmless fellah, I know, but he is still the enemy!) – FG nationally high in the polls, he locally doing a lot of legwork (to such an extent that the likes of you and me are calling him Paschal!), people locally feeling he “deserves” it. I will be amazed if he doesn’t make it. But, as you say, transfers and where you are as others are eliminated will be crucial. Interesting that WBS, who is close to this aspect, wouldn’t expect Perry to run if O’Sullivan does. Is Perry that close still to the Gregory camp? He strikes me as hard working and ambitious.

EamonnCork, I’m in the happy position of knowing a bit about West Cork too, the missus being from an FG farming background down there (She’s shouting at me now – “I always voted Labour”, which is true.). FG are looking for two new candidates. One of the possibilities is related to the missus, I know him well. Let’s just say that he is to the right of Leo Varadkar but thankfully he is unlikely to want the gig. His take on the Labour candidate is that, while he is an excellent public speaker, he hasn’t done the legwork/drudgery constituency work and so hasn’t kicked on as expected.
Slim possibility of 2 FG, 1 Lab and no FF, maybe?

sonofstan - January 6, 2011

Just had a quick look at something, which boggles the mind a little: in DC in 2007, there was a total valid poll of 34,000 odd – and about 20,000 of that went to candidates who won’t be running this time: Bertie, TG, and Patricia McKenna. So that’s about 60% of the vote going to a new home. Now some of Bertie’s 12k votes will stay FF, and M O’S (if etc..) will probably keep a majority of the Gregory ‘heritage’ vote, but still – that’s a huge percentage of voters who can’t vote for the man or woman they voted for last time. I doubt if it an be matched anywhere else?

EamonnCork - January 6, 2011

FF will definitely take one in Cork South West because sitting TD Christy O’Sullivan was able to poll around 3,500 votes as an independent in 2002 and has a kind of cross party following. He’s a kind of low key Mattie McGrath.
Michael McCarthy has fallen out with certain sections of the Labour Party locally which will make his task harder. I don’t expect them to be busting a gut for him in the area here for example. FG will run two new guys to replace the two incumbent fossils which gives McCarthy a chance so I think if he makes it it will be instead of FG even if this is normally almost FG’s strongest area in the country. Do you know, when I think of it maybe it’s not all that uninteresting, relative to how it’s been in the past.

Joe - January 6, 2011

EamonnCork. You might have that SF chap from Skibb (or Clon?) as an option. No chance of a seat but should increase their vote. And what about that chap from Schull (or Baltimore?) who ran as a unionist a few elections back? And maybe some tree-hugging English hippie from Dunmanway will run as a fundi green. What’s not to be interested in?!!!

3. Jim Monaghan - January 5, 2011

There is a prediction that while there will be a FG/Labour coalition with Gilmore in the Clegg role there could be a shock on the opposition benches. SF with a critical vbote from ULA could be bigger than FF.
Imagine Adams as the opposition leader.Pressure from the left on FG/Labour rather than a demoralised and discredited FF.
Possible, I think.
Imagine the fun if FF collapses the government before the Greens get around to it.
Dun Laoghaire. I am voting for Boyd Barrett as the ULA candidate. Definitely no to FF, FG and Greens.
BB stands a chance, while a 4 seater now seemingly the part that was given to Dublin South is hostile to gthe left anyway.
They say Bacik will be Labours number 2. She could mobilise a very strong womens and civil liberties vote.
We could have 1 Fg, 2 Labour and BB. If there is an left transfer athmosphere.I say athmosphere because it would not be official but feel that the electorate (working people) are not enamoured with FG.
What is the transfer athmosphere elsewhere?. Very major factor this time and it could hurt the blueshirts

ejh - January 5, 2011

If Adams is the opposition leader you will surely see a monstering in the Irish press such as you have never seen before.

Joe - January 5, 2011

FF will be totally transfer toxic. But unfortunately FG will not be. They will get a lot of transfers from people voting Labour and independent.

Jim Monaghan - January 5, 2011

FF is transfer toxic, but I don’t think FG is that transfer friendly based on my reading of Donegal result.
Vote left

Mark P - January 5, 2011

Joe, you are exactly right. There will be a huge Lab/FG transfer in particular.

WorldbyStorm - January 5, 2011

No doubt about it. And it’s as you said previously, this is an historic pattern. Interesting thought, will that be strong enough to fend off FF gene pool type independents (and I’m not thinking ULA here who have a different profile) or will a collapsing FF vote swing their way?

Blissett - January 6, 2011

Has to be one FF seat in DLR. If Hanafin isnt leader, with the attendant bounce that would give, then id back Andrews. RBB has a good chance, but its far from a sure thing, and he could lose out to bacik, who is in the right place, and could poll well.

WorldbyStorm - January 6, 2011

Yep, talking to someone whose knowledge of these matters is a lot better than mine yesterday their read was that Bacik was very well placed indeed.

Garibaldy - January 6, 2011

I’d have thought that with Labour set for record results and Gilmore riding personally high in the polls it would be a bit embarrassing for him if he couldn’t bring Bacik with him, who is almost an identikit not scare the horses candidate.

Paddy Matthews - January 7, 2011

Mary Hanafin seems to be very concerned for Barry Andrews’s future:

Ms Hanafin said Dublin South voters had supported Mr Andrews’s uncle Niall Andrews, former MEP and TD, for many years.

“The Andrews family is a Goatstown family, a south Dublin family, and the Andrews name is a very good name, it’s a very good name in Dublin,” she said.

“They’ve been elected in Dún Laoghaire, in Dublin South and in Dublin South East, so it is a good name. But absolutely I’m not going to say anyone should move to a different constituency.”


Of course, in most games of musical chairs, there is one chair left at the end of the game. May not happen this time.

sonofstan - January 7, 2011

As well as being a ‘good’ name, it’s also the name at the top of the ballot paper – and between A for Andrews and H for Hanafin come B for Bacik and Barrett, and Boyd Barrett, and C for Cuffe and G for Gilmore……

4. EamonnCork - January 5, 2011

SOS, you’re right about Dublin Central, really fascinating. Does Perry have a chance?
Jim I’d forgotten about Bacik who makes DL even more interesting.
I know this is terribly frivolous of me but for a politics nerd election night is like a World Cup finals, and I don’t think we’ll ever have seen, or will again, an election with such a turnover of seats and such unpredictable results.
BTW, has Joan Collins a chance?

Budapestkick - January 5, 2011

Yes she does. I’m hopeful that she’ll get in, the best of the PBPA candidates by a wide margin.

LeftAtTheCross - January 5, 2011

Ouch! Your SWP allies (in the Alliance like) won’t be happy with that comment.

Budapestkick - January 5, 2011

That’s not meant as an insult to the SWP. I have a lot of respect for Boyd Barret in particular. I just think Collins is a better candidate and, if I had to choose, I’d rather have her voice in the Dáil then RBB et al.

Budapestkick - January 5, 2011

P.S: It goes without saying that I’d rather have both.

EamonnCork - January 5, 2011

I hope she does even though I’m normally against political dynasties.

Joe - January 5, 2011

I doubt Perry has much of a chance. But anything is possible. The old Kehoe SF vote in Cabra could transfer en masse to him and he could sneak ahead of Mary Lou. Like you, EamonnCork, I can’t wait for this election!

Joan Collins has to have a fighting chance.

WorldbyStorm - January 5, 2011

I’d be a bit dubious Perry would run while MOS is still in the constituency. It’s possible and perhaps it’ll happen, but..

Jim Monaghan - January 5, 2011

I hope she makes it. Really nice comrade. She would also represent the independents in the ULA. For the ULA to survive and grow it has to move beyond the founding partners and become something with a momentum.
I hope SP people in DL work for BB and SWP people in SP territory work for SP candidates.let us talk to each other at more than a leadership- level.
What are the attitudes of the other left formations to all this.

Budapestkick - January 5, 2011

That’s how it works. If you’re an SP member in the ULA and you live in DL you would be expected to canvass for RBB. And vice versa for Limerick City for example. There would be some exceptions to this, but that’s the general way we would expect it to go.

5. sonofstan - January 5, 2011

I hope she does even though I’m normally against political dynasties. :)

6. fergal - January 5, 2011

My approach to this election is very simple,which formation will best defend workers` interests and the answer has to be the ULA.
Dumb and Dumber(FF+FG) won`t get even a hint of a transfer.
Shouldn`t there be some sort of pact where left candidates transfer onto other left candidates?
I`ll transfer to Lab and the shinners,Lab could be in for a shock if the non labour Left performs really well.

WorldbyStorm - January 5, 2011

There should be such a pact and beyond ULA, etc.

7. irishelectionliterature - January 5, 2011

Its a pity there have been so many high profile FF resignations in that it deprives us of seeing a good number of them lose their seats….
… From a Left point of view EamonnCork OP makes a lot of sense but whats amazing about this election is that there are few foregone conclusions.
Whilst growing up and perusing election results I used to feel terribly sorry for voters in the likes of Mayo, Roscommon and Limerick West who more often than not had just a choice of FG or FF on the ballot paper.
Whats the safest place to call now? In 2007 12 constituencies* (Cork East, Cork North West,Donegal South West, Dublin Central, Dublin North West, Dublin South Central, Galway West, Kerry North,Kildare South, Louth, Meath West and Waterford) were unchanged party wise. Its hard to see those constituencies returning the same outcome party wise as 2007.
So literally everywhere is interesting and everywhere there are seats very much up for grabs.

8. neilcaff - January 6, 2011

I had a conversation over Christmas with a friend from South Kerry. She reckons Jackie Healy-Rae is dead man walking because he voted for the budget.

Apparently what’s really got people’s backs up is the cut in the dole. Employment in South Kerry was mostly based on three things, construction, call centre’s and tourism. Tourism is a shadow of it’s former self, construction has collapsed and the last call centre in South Kerry closed a few months ago. Most people between the ages of 20-35 have simply left, either to other parts of the country or emigrated entirely. The dole is keeping an awful lot of families just about above the water but the cut in dole will hit people really hard and now a lot of people are out for ‘vingince’.

Not very scientific I know but plausible nonetheless.

sonofstan - January 6, 2011

I thought Jackie wasn’t running? The plan was to pass the seat on to the son.

Joe - January 6, 2011

Michael to voter: “Sure ’twas a terrible bisnis altugther. Sure poor daid, the poor man wadn’t in his right mind athall athall. ‘Twas an awful pity afther all he did for us down the yeers, evry man in the villige now with his own pier down by the lake. Don’t worry athall now, only vothe me in and I’ll have the dole back up in no time athall athall and dem Jackeens won’t be pulling the wull over my eyes aisy.”

9. Jim Monaghan - January 6, 2011

Just a thought.
Many think FF has a lot of residual support due to patronage etc. With all the resignations, I think this will be reduced. Many regard favours done as due to the man/woman not a party thing.Further most TDs esp. in the bourgeois parties have personal entourages canvassing. This must weaken FF. Who would want the abuse if there is little to be got in the way of a favour.And no way will they be in a position to grant favours for a long time.
Hopefully as well a few dynasties will hit the dust, like the McManus one in Wicklow.Can you see McManus people breaking their hearts for a non McManus.

irishelectionliterature - January 6, 2011

To extend on Jims point, there were a lot of Ministers or Ministerial prospects voted back in as people liked to have a Minister representing the Constituency. Or being in a position to look after the Constituency.
That dynamic is now gone for FF but I’m sure voters will be looking at their FG and Labour candidates prospects of a Ministerial position.

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