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Was Bertie Ahern a bit too clever in courting Independents? September 15, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Looking at the SBP poll this weekend a number of thoughts come to mind. As noted by Paul Culloty and SonofStan in comments the results are as follows:

FG 35% NC
SF 27% NC
FF 10% -5
IND 10% +3
GP 6% +1
SD 4% NC
LP 3% NC
Sol/PBP 2% NC
Aontú 2% +1
Other 1% NC

These are pretty awful figures for the traditional ‘largest’ parties. As SoS noted, they’re now on 45% between them. Pretty shambolic stuff, and no sign of a recovery for Fianna Fáil. Indeed let’s be clear – the sheer strangeness of the party unable to muster more than 10% and the lack of comment about that more widely is quite remarkable. Perhaps outside of pandemic times the fact FF has hit the LP’s usual operating ceiling for much of the 1960s through to the early 1990s might see greater interest.

But there’s another aspect which is of perhaps more pressing importance to FF. That is that they have clearly gifted Independents some percentage of support. Perhaps not a huge amount, but look at the current numbers of Independents in Leinster House and consider their political position and it seems clear that in different times those seats would be held by Fianna Fáil (granted there are a few who would tilt FG, though perhaps distinctions are unimportant at this point). Did those deals that Ahern made in the 1990s with Independents to support the PD/FF coalitions have an unintended consequence of – to some degree, legitimising them with voters? And offering an alternative path to those who formerly were in FF who might have been anxious and eager to escape the confines of party candidate management.

Perhaps another effect of this was in opening up an alternative for some FF voters this also gave license further down the line for them to make the ultimate journey, as they might see it, to Fine Gael.

No doubt it is more complex than that. Party affiliations were diluting from the 1980s onwards. In some ways the reality that the PDs were a split from (mainly) FF is perhaps underconsidered. That too had an impact – although paradoxically perhaps in allowing right of centre voters a path to voting for FF governments without voting for FF.

Whatever the mix of dynamics in play at this point FF is much reduced. Almost incredibly so given they hold the position of Taoiseach in the government. And small wonder given the almost unbelievable chaos of the initial months of the government that they continue to lose support. Whereas intriguingly Fine Gael who are in if apparently not of the government in voters minds seem to sail above it. And the GP so far has yet to ship collateral damage.

A week or so ago I mentioned only half jokingly that perhaps the GP had FG and FF mudguards. It appears more like one mudguard is doing quite good service for FG and the GP. So far.

Comments»

1. irishelectionliterature - September 15, 2020

The deals done in 1997 with the four TD’s led to others being elected in the hope of deals. There were deals with Independents in the early 80’s but those governments didn’t last long enough for an impact.
I also think that since 2011, a lot of FF policy has been in part to try and make an impact in Dublin, things like Marriage Equality and Martin backing a Yes vote to repeal. That annoyed a lot of voters that would have previously been FF. A lot of the rural Independents would be socially conservative.

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WorldbyStorm - September 15, 2020

Yeah, hadn’t thought of it in quite those terms but that also caused a rupture – and add that to the crisis in 2009-11 – I remember speaking at the time to one long time FF member, guy in his late 60s from the west, who was utterly stunned by how negative the response to the party was after the crash. Told me he had never in the best part of fifty years canvassing and being active met such hostility at the doors. So there’d be a sense of betrayal and then a continuing sense of alienation from the dynamic you point to as well. Sort of a perfect storm for the party.

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NFB - September 15, 2020

You can probably include a lot of younger voters in that who never had the chance to get hooked in to the thinking of “Vote FF for life”, instead having the exact opposite experience, with the recession and everything that came with it.

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2. Jim Monaghan - September 15, 2020

I think that maybe the surprise is that the two and a half party system lasted that long. The Healy-Raes definitely had more power than a backbencher or indeed most ministers. Naughten survived while his FG colleague is unremembered. And inside and outside parties, with the exception of SF and most of the far Left, the electoral machines are very personal and not particularly party. A Dail that is more French Third or Fourth Republic than anything. Governments are paralysed and unable to do much, good or bad.

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3. irishelectionliterature - September 15, 2020

The abolition of the Dual mandate was something that also, despite their opposition at the time, helped Independents. Most now have a few allied Councillors that are their eyes and ears on the ground. They can deal with the queries, get stuff done or at least be seen to try and get things done. In a way these are mini parties.

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4. sonofstan - September 15, 2020

The electoral system facilitates independents. A smaller Dail, STV combined with a list system might stop up the parish pump.

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5. NFB - September 15, 2020

O’Cuiv fairly blunt today on what the party needs to do. Question remains about who could do better than Martin currently in FF PP.

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sonofstan - September 15, 2020

Where?

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NFB - September 15, 2020
sonofstan - September 15, 2020

” “There will again be two big parties in future, but one of them will not be Fianna Fáil”

One of them always wasn’t FF 🙂

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6. NFB - September 15, 2020

It’s been asked before, but who is next in like in FF? McGrath possibly, I’m sure Chambers wouldn’t mind going for it despite his age. Troy maybe?

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NFB - September 15, 2020

Lawless also someone I’ve been told is very well-liked in the party. Jim O’Callaghan has been maneuvering a bit this year.

Not a brilliant crop really.

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sonofstan - September 15, 2020

You can see them going through a ever dwindling talent bank. Like the LibDems here.

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WorldbyStorm - September 15, 2020

There’s a remarkable charisma deficit in it. And that’s kind of odd because whatever else even a decade and a half ago they seemed or at least gave the appearance of being weighty politicians. And in fairness Ahern et al had been invovled in the GFA/BA etc, etc.

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sonofstan - September 15, 2020

Bertie was an accomplished operator and, though I hate the phrase, had a great deal of emotional intelligence – he knew when to don the anorak and when to take it off. There was a terrible hubris about the next generation though: the likes of Cowen and Coughlan behaved like second- gen mafiosi thinking they could get away with anything.

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Alibaba - September 16, 2020

Talking about an ‘accomplished operator’, I met Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach accidentally. He was out alone canvassing during a by-election. I took him to task on so many things and to my surprise I couldn’t get rid of him. So I asked him straight out: “Why would you bother to argue the toss with me when clearly I will not vote Fianna Fáil?”, and he replied plainly: “Because I want to know why”. Twenty minutes later I told him politely I needed to take my leave. He walked away waving his hand warmly, whereupon two tall men appeared out of nowhere and led him to a car. 

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sonofstan - September 16, 2020

” I took him to task on so many things and to my surprise I couldn’t get rid of him. So I asked him straight out: “Why would you bother to argue the toss with me when clearly I will not vote Fianna Fáil?””

I had the same experience when he called to the door.

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rockroots - September 17, 2020

“Now is not the time for a change in leadership”, RTE quotes ‘senior backbench Fianna Fáil TD’ Jim O’Callaghan.

How does one become a senior backbencher? By giving frequent media interviews denying your own leadership ambitions, maybe?

Liked by 1 person

NFB - September 17, 2020

In FF, I think it’s winning a seat twice.

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gypsybhoy69 - September 23, 2020

Wouldn’t O’Callaghan as leader hasten the end of Fianna Fáil. A Dublin Senior Counsel who happens to be related to one of the RTÉ set. Oh bring it on if. I’d be happy at least as I’d probably see less of his big sulky head where I work!

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7. rockroots - September 15, 2020

I think the Independent Alliance is a pretty interesting case study as a political phenomenon. On the face of it, a very successful strategy for negotiating into government, but ultimately a flash in the pan. I vaguely recall Shane Ross being philosophical on election night about having achieved a few goals, so it was worth losing all of their seats. The wily independent will sell his/her vote to the highest bidder but take no personal responsibility. A bit like the last days of the College Green Parliament, I suppose.

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8. sonofstan - September 17, 2020

Just had a quick look at wiki for voting figures for FF over successive GEs. In 1992, they won just shy of 40% of the vote and 670,000 votes. In 2020, they won 22% of the vote with just under half a million votes. So first thing is that there is nearly a million more votes now that 30 years ago and secondly, it’s quite possible that all of the people who voted for them 28 years ago and are still alive voted for them this time, but there has been almost no replacements for the ones who’ve shuffled off the register and that very few of those million new voters have voted FF.

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WorldbyStorm - September 17, 2020

That’s bad news for them. Remarkable in a way. Interestingly I thought about a couple of years back I was hearing a lot more pro-FF sentiment out and about amongst people in their 30s. Wonder what happened to it.

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sonofstan - September 17, 2020

Listening to Jack Chambers on the radio and for the love of God…. where do they get them?

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WorldbyStorm - September 17, 2020

An endless supply!

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Colm B - September 17, 2020

A big powerful party with lots of members attracts a wide range of chancers – some crafty, some not so bright, etc etc. A once big powerful party in rapid decline still attracts chancers but much less of them cos there are better options. I guess the chancers of greater ability are heading to pastures greener, leaving FF with the left-overs. That’s my theory anyway.
Soon they’ll be like the Greenland Vikings, a stunted, degenerated, remnant heading for extinction.

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gypsybhoy69 - September 23, 2020

I’ve said it before but living in the same constituency as Jack, he’s totally relying on the residual Lenihan FF vote mostly based in Castleknock. His canvassers to a man look like they’re either heading to or coming from a Legion of Mary meeting.

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WorldbyStorm - September 24, 2020

Multitaskers so! 🙂

More seriously that’s not entirely implausible

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