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Looking to that Meath East By Election February 1, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.

In the next few months all eyes will be on the by-election in Meath East caused by the untimely passing of Fine Gael TD Shane McEntee.
Going from 2011 you’d be hard pressed to see beyond a Fine Gael Victory as they polled over 40% of the vote with Labour in second at 21.04% , Fianna Fail in third at 19.61% and Sinn Fein back in fourth with 8.88%…… however to win Fine Gael will need to get their candidate selection correct.
I know that is stating the obvious but in their previous two outings the Dublin West By-Election and the Presidential Election they fielded ‘poor’ candidates and the party vote was far lower than it was in the opinion polls. … and Fine Gael are currently sliding in them.
Fine Gael are in somewhat of a quandary over candidate selection. It was hoped that Mairead McGuinness would want to swap Europe for the Dail but ‘sources close to her’ ruled that out last week. You can understand why, she is in Europe with a decent chance of reelection. It may well be a stressful life but I’m sure the stress of dealing with irate Dail constituents in the current climate is less than appealing. Then looking forward to the next General Election, she may have wondered if there were 2 FG seats in Meath East?
So Fine Gael will have to look elsewhere, names popping up at the minute are Catherine Yore and former PD Sirena Campbell, although there may well be someone with Meath football connections being courted in the wings.

Turnout will also have a big bearing on the result and politics isn’t everyones cup of tea at the minute. I’d hazard that they could struggle to beat the 41.46% turnout in the 2005 Meath By-Election.
Poor turnout will mean a smaller share of the vote for Fine Gael and of course Labour, I also think it will help Fianna Fail.
Fianna Fail have an established candidate in former TD Thomas Byrne. He still has a fairly prominent role appearing regularly on both television and radio. The FF vote here the last time was also hit by an FF Independent Sharon Keogan,who polled over 1000 votes.

The current furore over crime and Garda station closures is meat and drink to Fianna Fail , there may well be logic behind the closures but emotionally its quite a charged issue, especially with older voters…. older voters being the ones more likely to vote. Ditto the issue of Navan Hospital.

In the analysis of last weeks Red C poll , considering the damage done by Fianna Fail led governments, they wondered what the ceiling to FFs vote was? ….just as we wondered for a few years how low FF could go, what their core vote was… In the end it was lower than most of us could have dreamt of.
Still slowly, if the polls are correct voters are slipping back to FF and as mentioned before the Garda Station closures and perceived crimewave will do FF no harm at all.
Not forgetting their opposition to the Property Tax.

Already we’ve learnt that Seamus McDonagh of The Workers Party will be standing, moving from Meath West where he stood in 2011. Backing from CAHWT may get him some extra votes but hardly enough to make an impression, especially with Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein both opposing the Property Tax.

Beyond that other candidates aren’t so clear.
With Dominic Hannigan already in situ, Labour have two councillors in Meath both of whom would be in Meath East, Niamh McGowan and Eoin Holmes.Holmles was originally co-opted onto the council to replace Dominic Hannigan before being elected in his own right in 2009. It may be either of them but whoever the Labour candidate is , the most realistic aim will be to try and come ahead of Sinn Fein and that doesn’t look likely. They’ll be lucky to get 10% of the vote.

Sinn Fein more than likely will run former Councillor Michael Gallagher who ran in 2011. Hospitals, cutbacks, property tax, indeed Austerity itself will all be part of the Sinn Fein campaign. If the opinion polls are correct, I’d expect them to poll anywhere between 15 and 20% of the vote.

Dunshaughlin based Independent Councillor Joe Bonner who polled 2,479 votes in 2011, could poll well again and with a polarized electorate could be well positioned to pick up transfers.

Another possibility is a Pro Life Independent running (I’m unaware of Joe Bonner stance on this issue) with the aim of disrupting the Fine Gael vote.

It being a by-election I’m sure plenty of other candidates will emerge  in time.

At this juncture I’ve a feeling FF could win it…….

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1. steve white - February 1, 2013

so are they going to paint thomas byrne as new fianna fail, even though he been active supporter of FF for over 15 years?

LeftAtTheCross - February 1, 2013

Hard one to call.

I strongly suspect FF will sneak it.

FG need a big name. Yore is a muppet. Campbell as you say is a blow-in from the PDs, I can’t imagine her getting the nomination.

Labour’s potential candidates are not strong either. I don’t know Holmes at all. McIlhenny is very south Meath commuter belt but I can’t see Labour doing well here with their record in gov’t.

The Navan hospital issue might upset things. Navan itself is in the other Meath constituency. If local GP Ruairi Hanly stood I suspect he’d gather a fair vote, and he’s certainly been acting the rabble rouser from the platform at the Hospital rallies, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if he stood as the SF candidate? See: http://www.imt.ie/opinion/2013/02/the-futures-not-orange.html

The WP candidate as you say is Seamus McDonagh. As you say, being anti-austerity is a given but it’s no differentiator. We will construct a campaign that offers more to the electorate than that, but will the electorate be open to listening?

CMK - February 1, 2013

Tommy Byrne will get it by a country mile, unfortunately. As LATC notes, the FG candidates, if McGuiness doesnt’t run, are poor. Ditto for Labour’s. For Labour candidates the centrality of wealth to success in mainstream politics will come into play. McEntee was wealthy when he got into politics, Byrne is very well to do and well meshed into property-legal circles, Dominic Hannigan is another very wealthy individual; the two Labour candidates suggested, if they don’t have plenty of cash to hand, won’t make it.

I can’t see Ruairi Hanly standing for SF and I think he actually stood for the PDs in Monaghan in 2007 or even 2002. He was laughably described by ‘The Phoenix’ in the last edition as a ‘socialist’, something which probably caused him immense pain. He’s a out and out neo-liberal and whatever about his ‘populism’ on Navan hospital he seems to me to be a advocate of privatisation of healthcare in the name of breaking the monopoly of the medical professions.

Hopefully Seamus will poll well and get a couple of thousand votes – it’ll be a useful test of the appetite for alternatives to the austerity parties. Altough Meath East is probably the worst place in the country to test that.

LeftAtTheCross - February 1, 2013

CMK, the cynic in me thinks that Hanly’s unashamed neo-liberalism and PD heritage would matter less to SF than the prospect of getting young popular candidates elected in both Meath constituencies and cementing their position in mainstream politics as the ‘legitimate opposition’ ahead of FF.

As for Meath-East being the worst place in the world to test a socialist alternative to austerity, I live in hope that you’re wrong.

CMK - February 1, 2013

I’m not sure Hanly’d ‘fit in’ with SF for reasons I’m not going to go in to. The PDs, on the other we just the job.

If Seamus McDonagh can get over 1500 first preferences I think it would be very significant and he could well get more. Clearly, he’ll be the only candidate articulating a politically motivated anti-austerity message, FF and SF will jump on the anti-austerity bandwagon of jump off it again when it suits them. It will test whether an explicit anti-austerity message resonates. It will also test the government’s standing since it’s become clear (since late 2011) that they were fully locked in and committed to Troika rule. If an anti-austerity candidate can drum up a couple of thousand first preferences in East Meath then that would be a very hopeful sign.

irishelectionliterature - February 1, 2013
Ramzi Nohra - February 1, 2013

tip for that link – if asked if you are a medical professional – say yes :-) (I am clearly too honest for my own good)

Tawdy - February 1, 2013

Good luck to him ( Seamus McDonagh ), I`m sure he will give them a run for their money.

2. Joe - February 1, 2013

A Meath football candidate for FG would make sense. A blueshirt (his description) acquaintance of mine from Slane used to be ecstatic of a Monday morning in the 90s, having watched a Meath team sent out by Boylan for some national league game – “everyone of them, from 1 to 20, a blueshirt, and the manager and selectors too.”
His story was that the time Bruton first ran for his seat, the candidacy was first offered to Boylan but he turned it down, and the rest as they say is history.
So, given all that, no shortage of possible ex-Meath football candidates for FG.

CMK - February 1, 2013

That’s interesting, Joe, about Meath GAA being Blueshirt stronghold. I wonder is there any connection between that fact and the seemingly habitual violence of Meath?

irishelectionliterature - February 1, 2013
Joe - February 1, 2013

Smiling here CMK. It’s a theory. But then how do we explain Tyrone/Derry/Armagh? Or junior football in Wickla? Or them nasty Dubs?

CMK - February 1, 2013

GAA is not my strong point and I’m not familiar with the capacity for on pitch violence of the respective counties. However, having been born in Meath (and living to tell the tale) I have family who have played at minor level and who now closely follow the parish team. Every match of that team involves some form of violence – digs, punches, kicks, verbal threats against the ref and opponents – from what I hear. Extraordinary that it is accepted and socially acceptable, apparently. Indeed, it’s a source of pride! But I wouldn’t be surprised if the arrogance that goes with FG-ness should translate into other aspects of life, even to violence.

Blissett - February 1, 2013

I’d love to know the political leanings of Laois hurlers. Them boys really take the biscuit

3. greengoddess2 - February 1, 2013

Mairead, i think, would have run I’d they had offered her a Ministry. She won’t now.

4. Liberation Jumpsuit - February 1, 2013

GG – will you back McDonagh or whatever Labour rascal is presented to the public?

5. Blissett - February 1, 2013

Unlikely to be Hanly for SF. People can have a pop off SF for being populist etc, and being anti-austerity when it suits all they like, and opinions to that effect ar as valid as any.

But I really do wonder if people properly have any grasp of the political culture of SF. The hoops that would have to be jumped through in terms of local membership and gaining there trust, means that SF will never (for bad and for good) be able to just co-opt the local ‘Hale fella well met’ character at the drop of a hat, and this is likely to be far too soon for Hanly to do that.

I genuinely amnt offering defence or praise of SF in that, there may even be some grounds for criticism in terms of inflexibility. But just because people take a similarly dim view of SF and FF doesnt mean they should assume the internal cultures of the respective parties are even remotely similar

WorldbyStorm - February 1, 2013

Blissett, not to go into too much detail here but did you get that email and is it okay to post that up?

6. The Caretaker - February 1, 2013

Can’t see McDonagh getting more than 800 first preferences myself. FG would be mad to plump for Campbell, she makes Gay Mitchell look positively chirpy.

Byrne has to be front runner.

7. doctorfive - February 1, 2013

Prospective candidates should be chased to the point of death or exhaustion by the Ward Union Hunt in lieu a traditional by-election.

Byrne singled out the ban as the most difficult issue he had to deal with as a TD recently. Puts NAMA or the presentation of alternatives in perspective in this particular constituency. The RISE lobby group relaunched again during the Summer and their Chief was special adviser to the late Junior Minister.

LeftAtTheCross - February 1, 2013

Good point about RISE (Rural Ireland Says Enough). No point in getting depressed about it though. ‘Agitate, educate, organize’ as the man said.

8. Joe - February 1, 2013

I think the discussion above around the political connotations of GAA violence needs its own thread. Better, its own website.
In Kerry, it might be Civil War leftovers. In the rest of the country, it can go back to prehistory.
A few starters:
Hurling in Wexford. One of the clubs there regularly gets wound up by opponents calling them “Wet the rope” cos – In ’98, after the defeat, the Yeos were stringing up some local rebels. The rope slipped a couple of times on one poor lad’s neck, prompting one turncoat onlooker to shout “Wet the rope” so that it wouldn’t slip the next time. Things like that don’t be forgotten.
Laois hurling? I’d say that might go back to the Parnell split.
To more recent times. There’s a club in Cabra which some stirrers insist on calling Continuity Naomh Fionnbarra.
In Meath of course, there’s the Gaeltacht / Land Commission thing. Many of their best players are really Connacht men.

LeftAtTheCross - February 1, 2013

Joe, would you be available to translate the WP election literature into Irish for the Meath-East voters of Baile Ghib?

Joe - February 1, 2013

Ah janey, Latc. I was nearly thrown out of the ISN cos it took me about two years to translate their recruiting leaflet – and I never finished it!
But yeah, I’ll give it a go, as long as the contents are acceptable to me politically! WBS has my contact details.

LeftAtTheCross - February 1, 2013

No worries Joe, I’m only pulling your leg :-)

Joe - February 1, 2013

Aww shucks Latc. I genuinely thought you were trying to recruit me there. I’ll save my embarrassment by claiming it as a lucky escape!

LeftAtTheCross - February 1, 2013

Joe, we’ll get you back some day hopefully, the party needs you, and all the others that drifted away too.

Joe - February 1, 2013

And I should add re Wickla. The row could be about whether you see Michael Dwyer of the glenside as a solid rebel or a crown collaborator.

Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - February 1, 2013

Referees in the boot of the car seems to be the norm there. Don’t know if politics is involved.

LeftAtTheCross - February 1, 2013

Tell me more about Dwyer. My other half is descended from him, or so the family claim anyhow. I understood he was the rebel, what’s the angle on the crown collaborator? Would be good to have the dirt on him to wind up the in-laws!

Joe - February 3, 2013

Don’t know how much of this is folklore, how much “fact”. But here goes. He was a rebel and kept a bit of guerrilla action going in the Wicklow mountains for a few years after 98. But eventually him and the establishment realised that neither was going to win. So he made a deal with the authorities. He gave himself up to them and they sent him to Australia – but more as a settler than a convict. And he ended up over there as a crown servant of some kind – police commissioner or something similar. So some people in Wicklow thought he was great but some diehards thought he was a sellout.
Finally, I would advise extreme caution in winding up the in-laws about this, Latc. Extreme caution.

LeftAtTheCross - February 4, 2013

Thanks for that Joe. I didn’t realise he’d turned gamekeeper when he went to Australia. As for winding up the in-laws, it wouldn’t be the first time. For some reason my better half objects to her family being called kulaks, I can’t understand why.

Joe - February 4, 2013


9. irishelectionliterature - February 1, 2013

if FG were to lose badly here would that cause any backbenchers to get jittery and jump ship

10. Robert Nielsen - February 2, 2013

I say it’ll be Fine Gael by a comfortable margin. They’ll drop votes, possibly even a large amount, but their lead is too big. Especially as the nearest rival would be Labour who will almost certainly suffer a large decline. Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail will gain but not by near enough. The only interesting feature will be the battle to see who comes 2nd and 3rd.

I’ll take a stab at predicting FG 35%, FF 23%, SF 21%, LAB 11%, OTH 10%

11. Jim Monaghan - February 2, 2013

Fg replaces FF as lead bourgeois party. FF replaces FG in second place. Labour is then replaced by SF as the half party. Back to teh future perhaps.And the far left will wait for some future crisis, having given up on this one.

Dr. X - February 4, 2013

Depressingly plausible. OTOH, Labour was always able to be FG´s flexible friend but it was for most of its history politically confused. We may not like SF´s politics, but at least it has some. Or at least it looks that way at the moment. We won´t know what happens for certain until after the next election.

As for FF simply falling back to second place, the fact that they are a party of aging people and remoter provinces may make it hard for them to even retain that spot.

Jim Monaghan - February 4, 2013

Depressingly the same was siad about FG. I am depressed.

Dr. X - February 4, 2013

You’re depressed? How do you think I feel?

12. doctorfive - February 21, 2013

Darren O’Rourke (SF) & Thomas Byrne (FF) selected

A McEntee expected for FG though nothing final

irishelectionliterature - February 21, 2013

I got a Meath East SF Newsletter sent to me this week, not a word on it about an SF candidate or even anyone other than Peadar Tobin and national figures in it. I’ll post it next week sometime.

13. John Moran - March 5, 2013

Dare to be different, make a change and vote for Seamus McDonagh – The Workers’ Party.

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