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Steady if unspectacular progress? January 30, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

There’s a fascinating overview of Mary Lou McDonald as part of the Pillars of Society column in the current edition of the Phoenix. Of course like most such columns the topic is usually more broad based than the individual being analysed, and so it is that the piece considers SF’s prospects now that McDonald has taken the helm.

Still, got to say, I was intrigued by this analysis here:

Since [2009] then, steady if unspectacular progress has been made with the party’s Dáil numbers rising to 14 in 2011 [from 4] and 23 in the 105 election. But the Nordies are in a hurry and coalition government has brome a burning obsession, especially with the Stormont stalemate.

A near doubling of seats from the mid-teens to the mid-twenties is steady and unspectacular? Granted all this happened when the Irish political system part-fractured – but in any other context that would be remarkable progress for a party which five years before had all of four – count ‘em, four – seats.

In some ways the rise of SF (and its continuing consolidation, notably Adrian Kavanagh puts them just shy of 30 seats on current polls) is one of the most interesting and unusual aspects of Irish politics. The PDs who started out with 14 in 1987 (though in truth they had was it 5 TDs when they split from FF, including FG TD Michael Keating) saw their numbers drop to 6 at the next election, increase to 10 at the next, down to 4 at the next, then 8 in 2002, and a mere 2 in 2007. Clann na Poblachta likewise started out well, with 10 but never gained more than 3 subsequently.

Anyhow, the piece argues that SF’s plan is to ensure that it is ‘arithmetically impossible to keep the party out of coalition’. I guess that does depend upon whether FF and FG can manage to sustain confidence and supply arrangements, but yes, it is a plan. Though the longer term goal of ‘a coalition agreement depending on a programme that was progressive socially and economically and of course strong on the national question’ seems a bit wooly.

Some interesting stats, for example, ’13,000 of so SF members, two-thirds are now southern’. But also notable is the reality that the influx of new members has been a mixed blessing, not least in that some have had unrealistic expectations of advancement. The Phoenix argues that ‘older members react in disbelief when some of these then revolt to the [Indo] allegations of bullying’. No doubt there is some of the latter, but for those of us from parties with strong…erm… disciplined…erm… cultures, it’s curious to see these allegations. Of course that may speak of generational and attitudinal changes. One thing to be in the WP or SF or whoever in 1984, quite another in the 2010s when societally scepticism about hierarchies is more pronounced (as well as those disciplines borne in the fires of the 60s and 70s are now long past).

The piece concludes by noting that the next election is key. They need to get 30 odd seats for the plan to work, and to sustain morale. They’ve some gains, but, again for all that the polls are favourable it could be that FG and FF squeeze them sufficiently that they return with about 23 or even a little fewer. A lot hangs on McDonald’s leadership. The next twelve months are going to be interesting.


1. Aengus Millen - January 30, 2018

I think I’d be surprised if they went down in their number of seats. One thing that gives me hope (and I’ll never say this again) is the good that having Varadkar as leader has done for Fine Gael. If putting a fresh young face has helped them so much surely it will do the same for Sinn Fein especially considering they have a more appealing message. In fact I’m gonna go way out on a limb a suggest we might see at least one or two polls with them ahead of FF though not permanently.


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