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Government formation on foot of the MB/Sunday Independent poll February 17, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

As noted by Adrian Kavanagh, the figures from the weekend poll are clear and his projections of seat numbers thought-provoking:

Sinn Fein 26% (up 5%%), Fine Gael 25% (down 1%), Independents and Others 23% (down 9%), Fianna Fail 19% (up 1%), Labour Party 6% (up 1%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 34, Fine Gael 46, Sinn Fein 45, Labour Party 1, Independents and Others 33.

In the new Dáil of 158 seats, down all of, count ’em, six TDs, the number to get is 80, or really 81 or 82.

So how does it pan out in terms of government formation?

FF and FG = 80.

FF and SF = 79.

FG and SF = 91.

And that’s it bar a National Government or some such.

I think the parties governing on their own as minority governments is a non-runner. There’s simply not enough of them on an individual basis. FG on 46 and all that opposition out there? Nah, not a runner.

The Labour Party even on 6% has 1 TD so it’s simply not a factor. And by the by, what effect must polls like this have on their TDs? Can’t be good.

Even the alliances cobbled together and so on from the Ind/Other camp. What could they reasonably deliver, ten TDs apiece on a good day? Given how clear Creighton has been in her disdain for the Ross vehicle how would that function and even if the prospect of a return to Cabinet the numbers still don’t add up. Add twenty TDs to FG’s tally and they’re still out.

The only viable option really is FF and FG coming together. Well that, or a rapid subsequent election? Could be. And who then consolidates?

Useful to have an SBP/RedC poll to triangulate. But as matters stand today it’s almost impossible to see stable government post-election 2015/16.


1. ivorthorne - February 17, 2015

A FF/FG coalition would benefit Sinn Fein. They would become the main party of opposition and would be near certain to lead the following government.

The question for those on the left is if a SF would actually result in a more left wing government willing to put citizen’s needs above those of MNCs etc.


CL - February 17, 2015

Sinn Fein has yet to state that it will not form a coalition with Fianna Fail. But it does want a government that does not include either F.F or F.G. Nothing like taking a stand.

Liked by 1 person

2. sonofstan - February 17, 2015

Can I ask what’s probably a stupid question?

Is the number of TDs predicated on the number of voters – or the number of constituents? i.e. including or excluding those under 18, those ineligible to vote (immigrants etc.)


Joe - February 17, 2015

I think it’s “population” which would include under 18s etc. But I’m not sure. Anyone got a Bunreacht handy?


sonofstan - February 17, 2015

It’s population, I checked. Just being lazy earlier.


3. Gewerkschaftler - February 17, 2015

FF & FG with a wafer-thin majority – ideal! Give them a year…


CMK - February 17, 2015

Irish capitalism is going to need a solid team next time out. If SF don’t do the business then, yes, a FF and FG lash up with a half dozen Right independents.

But there is some real nastiness to be done in the next Dáil, if the terms of the Fiscal Treaty are to be adhered to, and, I think you’re right, they probably will be lucky to get through a year.


4. jamesmcbarron - February 17, 2015

Perhaps you should be factoring this May conference by the unions, the Phoenix article last week about SF strategy and the various Sunday Times articles.

If you do that then the numbers seem different, according to the Phoenix the SF idea is to form a ‘left bloc’ with left TDs and anything leftover from Labour and then present FF with a choice of being the minority partner of same or a minority partner to Fine Gael.

I suspect that the May conference will come up with a platform that most people on the left would support though it won’t be revolutionary (not that any of the left’s election platforms are). I would speculate that most independent left TDs including the ex labour ones and the PBP will endorse the May day platform as will SF and that after the election they will coalesce as the “Irish version of Syriza” and do a deal for government as the majority partner with a party not quite as rightwing as the Greek ANEL.

The SP/AAA will stay out much like the KKE in Greece as the holders of the true flame of socialism. (they’re not the same of course but you see what I mean).

The possibility of this alternative “left bloc” government will energise and engage a large number of people who believe in the political system as a means to resolve the current crisis or a tactic/means to advance their own or the class interest. Such a government will deliver a lot of good stuff but not socialism of course. Things many of us will welcome abolishing water charges, introducing a wealth tax, easing the tax burden on the lower paid increasing it on the higher paid, putting neutrality in the constitution, rent controls, a public housing programme, moving us towards universal equal healthcare, make union recognition compulsory etc. etc.

The mood is for a move to the left, to a more caring sharing society , a social democratic government is the logical out working of this. Fianna Fail can go along with that they’re populists and they desperately need to be back in government so they can get the patronage machine going again. Minority partnership with Fine Gael is death for them.

For people committed to revolutionary politics the task is to keep building the social movements and when such a government does come to power squeeze as much as we can out of them, whilst continuing the task of build class conciousness and encouraging working class self organisation I think.


CMK - February 17, 2015

If this Left Bloc do not have, as THE core principle of any government it intends to be part of (whether with FF or not), the repudiation of the Fiscal Treaty and its obligations, then it will accomplish very little.

The post-2016 political discourse will be dominated by the terms of the Treaty and the Six Pack and the Two Pack.

If a SF led Left Bloc were going to tell the EU institutions that the Fiscal Treaty is a dead letter, even though it is part of the Irish Constitution, then they can go on to implement progressive policies.

If such a Left Bloc accepts the parameters dictated by the Fiscal Treaty but campaigns on a Left programme and win support for that programme, then they will perpetrate a huge sellout.

SF and the gathering R2W political vehicle need to be crystal clear about where they stand with regard to the terms of the Fiscal Treaty because if they accept these terms any ‘anti austerity’ promises they make will be dead letters.

Liked by 1 person

Mark P - February 17, 2015

There is no prospect of a “Sinn Fein Bloc” government. There is a somewhat improved chance of a proposed “Sinn Fein Bloc” being large enough to allow Adams and Co to fudge the already meaningless distinction they have been trying to make between an SF/FF coalition and an FF/SF one.

Even I don’t think that People Before Profit are so completely unprincipled as to enter coalition with Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.

Liked by 1 person

workers republicu - February 17, 2015

What is R2W bottom line? we don’t know. They have been dragging their feet well behind the Direct Action against installation of water meters. Brenden Ogle needs to make their position clear re. the Fiscal Treaty.


Gewerkschaftler - February 18, 2015

Agree with much of what you say James.

But a FF is not ANEL, not by a long chalk, and if SF imagines they are then they’re kidding themselves.

ANEL is a recent invention to represent the interests of a shipping magnate, FF is something much deeper rooted in Irish political and social culture. Largely regrettably.

I don’t think SF could manage FF like Syriza have (so far) managed ANEL, and we shouldn’t take the analogy so seriously.


5. jamesmcbarron - February 17, 2015

Who’d have thought Syriza would go into government with ANEL though, a party of the extreme right?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course, we’ll know post election. The projected numbers currently dictate either SF/FG majority government, SF/FF minority government or an FF/FG just a majority government. SF/FF would need another pile of Tds, why not the route plotted by the Phoenix?


Mark P - February 17, 2015

Anti-coalitionism has never been a core principle of the Greek left, and in particular not of the left eurocommunists (the background of the SYRIZA leadership). Plus, for all that they are scum, ANEL are opponents of the troika – Fianna Fail are a different issue. It would be more like going into government with New Democracy, which is something even Tsipras couldn’t have sold to his own party at this juncture.

Whether you like the SWP or not, they have been trenchantly opposed to any form of coalition, involving anyone even slightly leftish, with Fianna Fail since they’ve existed. It would be an enormous departure from their own core beliefs and arguments for them to actually support such a government. It would amount to an announcement both that the SWP’s politics were no longer relevant to People Before Profit and that People Before Profit’s politics are to the right of the old, now extinct, anti-coalition left of the Labour Party. I do think that ten years as People Before Profit has had an impact on the SWP, but I don’t think they have been political corroded quite that much.

What Phoenix argues is, as always, their version of a Sinn Fein point of view. Sinn Fein have no objection to coalition with Fianna Fail in principle. The gibberish O’Broin, the fully leadership licensed voice of their alleged left wing, was pushing a few months ago about the supposed distinction between a FF/SF coalition with a few extra FF seats and a FF/SF coalition with a few extra SF seats has now been adopted by Adams and Co. This is a deliberate strategy to disarm any anti-coalition elements of their own party which may otherwise cause trouble. Sinn Fein also have no objection to coopting some useful idiots from other points of the political spectrum, whether they be independent TDs or People Before Profit. So from the point of view Phoenix, this all makes perfect sense.

But People Before Profit may have some objections to new careers as bag carriers for Sinn Fein. And they may have some objections to abandoning their own much-trumpeted opposition to coalitionism. None of those objections would be particularly relevant to Phoenix however.

Now it is possible that the wing of union bureaucrats which is reorienting to Sinn Fein may be able to pull together some kind of minimum pre-election platform that all kinds of people might sign up to. Whether that happens or has an impact remains to be seen. But that’s quite different from putting together an alliance around Sinn Fein which will fight an election as such or which will then enter into negotiations together for an FF/SF government.


James - February 18, 2015

While I agree with your argument, I’d go further than noting the personal antagonisms of the SWP to coalition.

The SWP — by which I mean their entire tendency and not just their Irish franchise — have theorised why they should support mass opposition movements, even if they aren’t leftwing.

Essentially, they argue that in order to relate to where people are at, they should not get too far ahead of them politically, e.g. by openly espousing socialism when the working class is demonstrably uninterested. The theory argues that they should engage in struggle with the class and, where necessary, support other larger, less radical formations.

In Ireland, that’s now looking like Sinn Féin. In Egypt, it was the Muslim Brotherhood. In Russia — the source of all wisdom — it was the Mensheviks and the SRs.

Then, when those guys are in power, you turn against them and attack them for betrayal, for not fulfilling a radical agenda etc. They lose popularity while the masses get further radicalised, set up workers’ councils, flock to the revolutionary party etc.

The willingness to do about turns is deeply embedded in the SWP, not only because its part of their culture, but because it stems form a theoretical approach to how revolutionary change occurs. As it has been theorised, it is a permanent feature and therefore very hard to change. Attempts to do so would likely lead to splits in the SWP and the fragmenting of PBP.

So, it’s very unlikely that the SWP would support a SF/FF coalition, but they are likely to be more favourable to getting into bed with SF prior to an election, than either the SP or WP would be.

Liked by 1 person

Gewerkschaftler - February 18, 2015

“As it has been theorised, it is a permanent feature and therefore very hard to change.”

Says it all really. 😦

I guess Syriza counts in the theoretical categoary of ‘targets for attack for betrayal’.


sonofstan - February 18, 2015

The number of times recently I’ve wanted to begin a comment with ‘I agree with Mark P.’ s worrying. But, here, again, I agree. SF are openly advertising for the position of junior mudguard in their lash- up with FF.


EWI - December 20, 2015

What Phoenix argues is, as always, their version of a Sinn Fein point of view.

Says you. Others might take the view that to be republican isn’t to necessarily be a Provo, and that the Phoenix have said some very uncomplimentary things about PSF in the past, odd for a what you claim.

Still others might ask if the SP have yet squared the circle of how to sell themselves to the Irish public while being the ‘provincial’ office of a quite Unionist larger British party.


Jolly Red Giant - February 17, 2015

There are a whole clatter of Indos (eg McGrath, Halligan etc) who would support SF going into government.


6. fergal - February 17, 2015

It’s early days yet and a lot could happen between now and the next election- I’d put a few bob on a ff-fg government, with a comfortable majority, and as cmk metioned above an awful lot of tricky decisions to be made. Then I’d put a few bob on this government going the full five years.
What is sf’s bottom line? Will there economic policies shift as they’re examined by the media?If they do a labour on it they will get hammered and rightly so
What is the sp’s attitude to government? Never?


7. CL - February 17, 2015

Any political bloc led by Sinn Fein would be more appropriately described as ‘populist’ rather than ‘left-wing’..


8. Alibaba - February 18, 2015

I am inclined to agree. My take is that Sinn Fein is the radical wing of Fianna Fail. As to the prospects for a Left Bloc my attitude is what are the core commitments and what are they campaiging for? Once that is clarified following the May Day conference I will give further thought to who I will actually campaign for or vote for. As to the prospects for a future formation, nothing is for sure yet.

Liked by 1 person

Alibaba - February 18, 2015

Meant that as a reply to CL 7.


9. Phil F - December 20, 2015

An alternative would be SF-FF-Lab and some independents.

However, I’m a bit confused by all the discussion about such minutiae here.

Surely most people here accept that no fundamental change is going to come about through Leinster House. Organising in working class communities and workplaces is the key and the parliamentary circus is more and more surreal.

While Leinster House can’t be ignored – it’s an important enemy institution – why give its make-up undue discussion time.

The more important issue, surely, is what to do to get workers into motion? And into motion whichever shower of professional politicians (ie management team for capitalism) is in government.



WorldbyStorm - December 20, 2015

Without disagreeing with your last point at all, I think it is important to keep a handle on the potential political environment beyond February and March this year – for example, if a rump LP does go into power with FG/A.N.Others that means that there is the possibility of addressing chunks of their support who will be alienated by those acts. If, say, SF were to deal with FF, etc that would have huge implications.

Moreover state power, whoever holds and wields it remains state power. Those who have it, as the phrase goes, can part make the weather. We see a massive effort at the moment from the establishment parties to suggest recovery and I think from anecdotal evidence I’m hearing that may have an impact on the ground in the very communities we need the left to prosper and expand in. So again, we have to combat that as best as is possible and keep track of it. The establishment uses the parliament as a tool in that process.

It is entirely possible that we will simultaneously have more left voices, but more marginalised left voices in the next Dáil and that has to be prepared for as well.

I think tbh that a genuinely transformational situation outside LH will be reflected in part in LH or its composition at some point. Speed the day.


EWI - December 20, 2015

An unconfortable issue with the notion of mobilising communities is that this has run straight into highly political policing by the Guards. Daly, Wallace etc. are clearly the subject of an ingoing campaign of police and legal harassment, which has been entirely ignored by the current big political parties. So far as I can see, the police and judicial activism is only growing stronger. Unless some way is found to counter it and force a fair application of law, then gaining some measure of political power in the Dáil seems like the only other option here.

Liked by 1 person

10. CL - December 20, 2015

Looking at the polling percentages obtained by various parties and how they have changed or not changed over time is a harmless enough activity.
But fetishistic obsession with the different methodologies of various polling companies should not be mistaken for political analysis.


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