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The Republic: forming the next government and other potential problems. December 4, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

Reading another exhaustive analysis by Adrian Kavanagh of the latest polling figures, and an analysis which is, as always couched in the necessary caveats, there’s little question that on his projections government formation in this state is now becoming incredibly difficult.

The figures are:

Independents and Others 32% (up 9%), Sinn Fein 22% (down 2%),  Fianna Fail 21% (up 1%), Fine Gael 19% (down 5%), Labour Party 6% (down 3%). 

And he suggests that his projection point to the following outcome:

Fianna Fail 36, Fine Gael 32, Sinn Fein 36, Labour Party 0, Independents and Others 52. 

Of course there’s still, what, eighteen months until the last date an election can be called, but… we have to be aware of the fact that the broad trends in support have been remarkably consistent across the last few years, those being, ever increasing SF support, increasing Ind/Other support, failing LP support, decreasing FG support and essentially static FF support.

In other words, even were we to shave – say – ten per cent off the Ind/Other category and five per cent off SF, both will return significantly increased numbers over the 2011 figures. That’s almost a given.

Okay, not perhaps the 52 TDs indicated in the above, and SF will be doing amazingly well to get 36.

But… the broader political context, whatever about the sudden calls from inside FG – finally waking up to just how serious this actually is for them, or so it would appear – for matters to be taken in charge by March by the Taoiseach, would appear unforgiving for the government. Water charges as an issue continue to exercise. There will be a protest next week, there will be more in the new year. There is the LPT. Whether minor tax changes will blunt those is very much open to question.

And here’s something to consider. Think about all the rhetoric about ‘tough decisions’ and ‘reform’ and ‘cutting spending to the bone’, and so on from the right of centre and parts of the centre. Well, we’ve just seen the limitations of that approach politically as the establishment parties continue to lose support or flatline.

And on the current figures were an election called and a government attempted to be formed, well, let’s just say it will be difficult.

FF and FG between them can only pull together 68 TDs. Just to get to half of the 158 TDs in the next Dáil they’d require 10 other TDs. One can only hope that Shane Ross’s Alliance is up and running and has the requisite 10. Actually, it will need a couple more, to be on the safe side. Grim prospect this, but then a revamped Reform Alliance might well come into the picture. Imagine that, FF/FG/the Ross Alliance and the Reform Alliance.

A ‘national’ government of FF/FG and SF would offer 104 TDs. Commanding, but surely only something that could be put together in extremis.

Independents and Others and SF would on paper have the numbers, 88. But we all know that that is utter nonsense. There is no way that the component groups could or would want to work together.

So what’s likely? I can’t say to be honest. A rapid second election? Possibly. That ‘national’ government? Perhaps. Unlikely. Sure, 1 in 3 is unlikely to vote for Ind/Other, but… what mechanisms will see support flow back to FG/FF and LP or towards SF in sufficient volume to allow for government formation?

Which leads to a further thought. Look at how useless FG/FF and LP attacks have been on SF. It just doesn’t make any difference. Perhaps attacks on Ind/Other about political stability will get through to the electorate, but… the lack of credibility of those parties in the eyes of said electorate suggests that voters are unlikely to return to them.

We may well see yet more go to SF, but also is this the point at which a ‘new’ formation becomes feasible? Perhaps a revamped FFnua, or Creighton’s right party (though I suspect it would have to be a damn sight more populist than she countenances), or a solidifying of the Ross Alliance. Forza Italia stepped in to replace the Christian Democrats in Spain Italy, same old whine, different bottle.

And if all this seems like hypothesising of the most extreme kind, well, so it is. But the current polls are unprecedented in Irish political history. As SonofStan asked with the news of the poll, ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore, are we?’. Too true. Where we actually are though is impossible to say.


1. sonofstan - December 4, 2014

Forza Italia stepped in to replace the Christian Democrats in Spain

Genius move that. Free movement of political parties within the EU


WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2014

I’m going mad! Italy of course…


sonofstan - December 4, 2014

Got me thinking though…is there any other party in Europe, apart from SF, represented in two sovereign parliaments?


2. dilettante - December 4, 2014

“A ‘national’ government of FF/FG and SF would offer 104 TDs.”

Notwithstanding the anti-SF bias on this site, do anybody other than the most sectarian, ultra-left, micro-group, playground revolutionary fantasists really believe that this is a realistic option for Sinn Fein?


WorldbyStorm - December 5, 2014

Hold on a second, what anti-SF bias here? If anything we are usually being chastised by people for being too soft on SF by considering them part of the left, reasonably progressive, etc, etc.

Re the question, no I personally do not, I tend to think it isn’t something they or their base would wear.


dilettante - December 5, 2014


There is a running narrative on this site of SF not being left. You are not as bad as some, but you always feel the need to qualify any reference to SF as being on the left (even though you have a background in a party which was to the right of current SF policy).

I get it that you are attacked by the sectarian, ultra-left, micro-group, playground revolutionary fantasists if you dare to suggest that SF might be anything other than a reactionary, petit-bourgeois, counter-revolutionary, enemy-of-the-people party. So you have to play to your public (and maybe even try to educate them a bit).

I’m not interested in pushing a party line, but, until this evening, I thought that the idea of “A ‘national’ government of FF/FG and SF” would be laughed out of court – even in this neighbourhood?

But it’s your blog, your rules, your guests, your bias, your pedagogical process – some good, some less good.
You’re dong a good enough job, but criticism is part of what happens when you do it.


shea - December 5, 2014

its the only stable government that exists on paper. its a new development, it has manifested itself in the last 2 or 3 opinion polls. before that it would be plausible to laugh it out of court, today it is not. The logic of the pd’s, greens and labour from one side of the prism would suggest that SF would be mad to prop up a government, the logic of the PDs the greens and labour who had the same warning signs also suggest that political parties also have extraordinary believe in their own ability and a deep misunderstanding of the terrain they are entering. Every political party think they are different, SF no different in that, its not a cert but is a possibility and worthy of discussion.


WorldbyStorm - December 5, 2014

That’s it exactly shea, up until now it simply didn’t factor but looking at the figures it makes sense to at least say one – frankly absurd – mathematical option would be some form of a national govt.

I think you’re right dilletente that many on certain parts of th left don’t regard SF as left wing, my view is that they are (and yes I always make the point some don’t because that view is so monolithic in some parts if I didn’t I’d have it pointed out again and again to me) but I know a lot of SF people very well, have good friends inside the party, and know that overwhelmingly it’s instincts are centre left and in a minority a lot more left wing than that. But that’s not all they are and there are centrists and even what I would consider right wingers as well. And that’s because it’s not just left/right that is a factor there, and as a republican socialist I get that. It’s also fair to say SF itself is changing somewhat as it gets larger both in terms of reps membership and support. That’s minevitable. It’s not as radical as say pre 80s/90s British Labour, with little appetite for nationalisation, but it’s functionally our main social democratish component. But whether it enters govt and more importantly with who is a much more crucial issue.


WorldbyStorm - December 5, 2014

Just one other thing, which party are you talking about me being in to thd right if SF? Hardly the WP being more right wing than current SF and I think it’s a stretch to say DL which I was a member of for two years and pre their participation in govt was less left wing than current SF. I was never a member of the Labour Party.


shea - December 5, 2014

it is possible. political parties think their brand is different and special but soap is soap.


CMK - December 5, 2014

Well, 2,000 teachers in the North will be finding out over the next year just how ‘Left wing’ Sinn Fein are. But that’s probably a ‘sectarian, ultra-left, micro-group, playground revolutionary fantasist’ thing to say.

Liked by 1 person

Gewerkschaftler - December 5, 2014

The teaching/education cuts look truly grim, I have to say.


CMK - December 5, 2014
3. shea - December 5, 2014

every eu referendum they dust down the scare tactics and bar two in which they blame themselves for not scaring people enough they get the result they want. But sort of like watching cowen again and wondering when he was going to call it a day, nothing changes.


4. Dr. X - December 5, 2014

I wouldn’t trust them not to resort to electoral fraud to keep the gray train rolling.


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