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Why would he be going and thinking of doing that now? June 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

The news that Stephen Donnelly, Independent TD for Wicklow, is ‘hinting’ at joining a political party in advance of the next election is very curious.

Speaking to the Irish Times at the weekend he stated that:

“The freedom of being an Independent for this Dáil term has been incredible, but you get into politics to change things for the better for your country and there’s only so much of that you can achieve on your own,”
“Of course I would consider becoming part of something bigger. You’ve a limited capacity to change things as an Independent.”

And the piece in the IT suggests that some have thought he might go over to the Reform Alliance, if and when that group formalises itself as something a bit more party like.

And yet, and yet. What would possess him to do that, or – as some argued, including Eamon Gilmore, that he might join Fianna Fáil? Donnelly strikes me as being actually a little bit closer to the centre left than centre right, though it is unlikely he’d find it particularly difficult, ideologically, if he wound up in any of our largish parties.

But… again the question has to be asked, what would possess him? Currently, and for the foreseeable future, Ind/Others are riding very very high in the polls. He was elected as an Independent in 2011. To jettison that aspect of his identity appears unusual as a course of action.

Then there’s the Reform Alliance. Billy Timmins, who is part of that, is in situ in Wicklow. Difficult to believe that the RA could run two candidates there. What of FF? Granted there’s no FF seat in Wicklow, and thinking back consider the plight of Joe Behan, who went from being an FF TD elected in 2007, to resigning in protest at the 2009 Budget. He lost his seat – while running as an independent – in 2011, though his approach during his time as an Independent was one where he voted both with and against the government. He didn’t join the then-Technical Group, so perhaps that counted against him in attempting to define himself as a clearly independent Independent. Just at the locals he was voted in with a considerable surplus – so who knows, perhaps he’ll take a run at the seat in 2015/16.

Of course Donnelly may be contemplating the fact he came in fifth of five and with 112 votes ahead of SF candidate John Brady. It’s not difficult to envisage Brady taking a seat.

Adrian Kavanagh’s projection on Politicalreform.ie according to the latest polling data saw 3 Ind/Other seats in the constituency, 1 SF seat and 1 FG seat. That’s all a bit pie in the sky, given that it was on a remarkably high rating for Ind/Others, though notably it did allow for Timmins and Donnelly both running as Ind/Other to come through as well as one other Ind.

But on a less stellar day for Ind/Other then perhaps Donnelly would be in greater trouble.

The big question is, is it better to run as an Ind/Other or as an FF or FG member? And within Ind/Other as an Ind or an Other?

There will, one suspects, many making that calculation over the next eighteen months.

Though, there’s one other possibility. Say you’re an Ind/Other not entirely satisfied with the way the last three years has gone. Perhaps the idea of serving in an administration makes sense in the context of one’s political approach. How better to signal that one was willing to do so, should the numbers fall right in the aftermath of an election than announcing a certain sympathy with political parties in advance of said election. That way one can run on one’s strength as an Ind/Other and then – perhaps – if needs be and if in forming a government post-election some of more ‘dependable’ Ind/Other folk elected are needed, well, one name will be in the mix from the off.


1. Joe - June 16, 2014

I heard him talk about “myself and Micheal Martin” on the radio … referring to how he and Martin had raised the issue of the membership make-up of the Banking Enquiry. It sounded like a hint to me.
Join Fianna Fáil, he’s sure to be straight onto their front bench. Things go well, he’s a minister in the next government. Could happen.


WorldbyStorm - June 16, 2014

Yes, that’s true.


hardcorefornerds - June 16, 2014

Sounds all very like George Lee…

I think Donnelly can be quite good, but maybe there’s something in this about the limits of technocratic politics – in that Donnelly understands finance and economics (at least of the orthodox kind) very well but there isn’t necessarily a political/ideological home to place that in, at least not without abandoning the critical perspective.

At the moment Donnelly seems more akin to Shane Ross but maybe that’s the problem, there can only really be one of him -and Donnelly’s debt-scepticism doesn’t seem to have eclipsed Ross’ s focus on corruption as the issue that gets the limelight.


2. Tomboktu - June 16, 2014

What would possess him? Well, how likely is an independent to get a seat at cabinet?


WorldbyStorm - June 16, 2014

Surely, it’s the risk of running for a party and getting elected. That’s where I’d wonder.


3. PaddyM - June 16, 2014

Of course Donnelly may be contemplating the fact he came in fifth of five and with 112 votes ahead of SF candidate John Brady. It’s not difficult to envisage Brady taking a seat.

Brady will almost certainly take a seat, but Anne Ferris didn’t exactly set the world alight even in 2011 and Labour’s vote in Wicklow collapsed to 3% last month – including in Bray.


PaddyM - June 16, 2014

First paragraph above should be in italics representing a quote…


WorldbyStorm - June 16, 2014

As you say Ferris would look weak even if the LP vote wasn’t abysmal at the moment.


4. sonofstan - June 16, 2014

It’s an intriguing thought that, with the rise of the ‘ind/other’ category in Irish politics, parties and governments could become more like sports teams, with a changing cast of ‘buy ins’ to suit the electoral arithmetic and ambitions, both of indies and parties. We may have seen a prefiguring of this in the way that Mary Harney more or less outlived her party in government – there is no reason why the likes of Donnelly couldn’t be drafted into an FF (or FG or FF/ FG) administration as a signal of seriousness and to use his undoubted abilities – without him necessarily having to join either, or commit long term.


shea - June 17, 2014

maybe he will start something himself. Its sort of what next time for a lot of the independents, hitting or braking 30% in the opinion polls, no one can take it all, lot of tendencies in it but the bigger the whole gets then maybe the bigger the slice for each tendency, maybe.


WorldbyStorm - June 17, 2014

That’s a very likely scenario. Ross as well.


5. DC - June 17, 2014

Has an independent ever been a government minister-the only one I can think of off-hand was James Dillon in the first Inter-party govt (he’d left FG over neutrality, if i recall correctly, but of course went back and bcame leader later).


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