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Fianna Fail and The Local, European and By-Elections June 13, 2014

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The great news for Fianna Fail from the Local Elections is that they are once again the biggest party in the Republic. That’s a tonic for the troops, a jibe to hit Sinn Fein, Fine Gael and whoever else is listening, puts a pep back into that FF step. Over the past few weeks various Fianna Fail politicians and supporters have been at pains to try and develop the narrative that they were the real story of The Local Elections, it wasn’t Sinn Fein’s success , Labours demise or the increased number of ‘Others’, the real story was Fianna Fail being the biggest party at local government again.
“They had us written off in 2011 but we are back!” was the mantra.
When you have a hobby like mine during elections if you see a local party office open as you pass by you tend to go in and ask for leaflets. I called into a number of different local party offices during the course of the campaign including two Fianna Fail ones. Naturally I’d have a chat, explain the hobby and be asked was I a party man myself. What struck me about the conversations in the FF offices was that it all revolved around various Fine Gael and Labour Ministers, Shatter was particularly in vogue. It was all personalities as opposed to policies.
In various media outlets since the elections Fianna Fail have attributed their success to their policies and their ‘Renewal’. That may be a small part of their recovery and they had many enthusiastic young candidates (as did all the other parties) but the main reason is that the various scandals, mishaps and errors of judgement by the current Government has led many voters to think that Fine Gael and Labour are just as bad as Fianna Fail. That there is little or no difference between them. A negative plus for Fianna Fail as it were. Some of those votes famously ‘lent’ to Fine Gael in 2011 came back because the voters saw no improvement or difference. In the past though when Fianna Fail went up , Fine Gael went down, that certainly isn’t happening to the same extent (if at all_ anymore .
Countrywide they polled really well but in Louth, The four Dublin Local Authorities, Galway City Council, Wicklow and Waterford they polled less than 20% of the votes, indeed just 14.3% in Dublin City Council and 12.5% in South Dublin County Council.
Dublin is still a problem for them and whilst Adrian Kavanaghs projections based on the Local Election results have them winning 8 seats in Dublin, at the present moment I can see them probably win four. Three former Fianna Fail TDs contested in Dublin, Sean Haughey, Mary Hanafin and Charlie O’Connor. They were all elected.
Haughey polling particularly well may actually cause a problem for them. If I were an FF strategist I would only field one candidate in each of the Dublin Constituencies. Haugheys success should be enough to get him on the ticket in Dublin Bay North ….. Where Averil Power will surely also want to run. I’m pretty sure FF are desperate for her to win a seat. The Mary Hanafin vote was interesting too in that it was a Mary Hanafin vote not a Fianna Fail vote. At the drop of a hat she was able to assemble a team of 80 to 100 canvassers, in effect a Mary Hanafin Machine. I wonder will many of the new FF Councillors /prospective General Election candidates be able to call on an organisation like that?
Another problem for them Dublin wise, is having no TD in Dublin or its bordering counties. The longer this Dail has gone on the bigger this problem appears. They have a very limited number of decent media performers and I may be wrong but I don’t see Niall Collins or Timmy Dooley appealing to a Dublin Electorate. It was noted that as soon as the Campaign was over Willie O’Dea suddenly broke his radio silence and was all over the airwaves.
The rise of Sinn Fein is a problem for Fianna Fail, not just in the obvious way of Sinn Fein winning votes, there is a large section of voters who despise the thoughts of Sinn Fein in government. So this is another issue that Fianna Fail has to tackle but can’t…… their intentions regarding coalition with Sinn Fein. Fine Gael will surely not go into government with Sinn Fein but there are suspicions that any whiff of power and FF would jump in with SF. Of course Michael Martin has said they wont , but everytime he does it seems Dev Og emerges and says that Fianna Fail have a lot more in common with Sinn Fein than they do with Fine Gael. I’m told that the further West you go the more FF members are in favour of it. Its a strange one but I certainly can see it impacting on Fianna Fails chances, especially in getting transfers. I gather that yesterday Michael Martin stated that they wouldn’t go into coalition with Fine Gael either. …
Then we have the by elections starting with Dublin West. The Fianna Fail vote dropped by over 4% since the 2011 By-Election, David McGuinness also slipped from second in first preferences in 2011 to 3rd in this years by-election. There were weak Fine Gael and Labour candidates. Come the next General Election Leo Varadkar will be back as will Joan Burton. You would have to assume Varadkar , Sinn Fein and Ruth Coppinger would get in leaving McGuinness and Joan Burton fighting it out for the final seat.
On the other By Election in Longford Westmeath the Fianna Fail vote dropped by 1.5% from the 2011 General Election. There were some geographical issues at play but even still it wasn’t a fantastic performance. One other thing that caught my eye in that by-election was that over the course of the counts until his elimination at the penultimate count, Paul Hogan of Sinn Fein received more transfers than Aengus O’Rourke of Fianna Fail even from the FF genepool candidate Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran.
The European Elections were a bit of a disaster winning just the one seat in Brian Crowleys seat in Ireland South. The Fianna Fail vote in Dublin dropped almost 6% from their 2009 vote. Lacking a TD in Dublin they really needed Mary Fitzpatrick to win but she didn’t even come close. In Midlands North West the combined Fianna Fail first preference vote was 113,946 compared to Marian Harkins 68,986. They didn’t get transfers and the transfer from Thomas Byrne to Pat The Cope was just over 50% which for Fianna Fail was quite low. In Ireland South they outpolled Fine Gael but it was Fine Gael who won two seats there as only around 42% of Crowleys surplus transferred to running mate Kieran Hartley.
If rumours are to be believed John McGuinness reckons he is the answer to Fianna Fails woes, much of which himself and others attribute to Michael Martin. I’d imagine a change in leader with McGuinness at the helm would only make things worse…….. … and as Labour seem to be finding out, a change in leader doesn’t exactly lead to a jump in the polls.

This Week At The Irish Election Literature Blog April 6, 2012

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First off a booklet giving details of each candidate for the 1980 Fianna Fail Committee of 15 elections, includes amongst others a young Willie O’Dea and Ryan Tubridys father.

Then it looks as if Fine Gael are using Jobs again in their Fiscal Treaty Campaign “This Treaty supports jobs and recovery. It protects all our interests – yours, mine and our children’s.”

from there to a leaflet that is being distributed in West Dublin at the minute about Oireachtas members pay and expenses “Real Leadership is about being First, not Last to take cuts”

Then a 1973 flyer from Conor Cruise O’Brien, Joe O’Connor and Paddy Dunne running for Labour in Dublin North East

Fianna Fail ….Post Mahon April 3, 2012

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At a recent family function, I was greeted with a gleeful “Well at least Bertie wasn’t corrupt!” from a Fianna Fail supporting relative in relation to the Mahon tribunal findings. The rest of the guests turned on him, mocked him and then quizzed him some more on his attitudes to the tribunal.
He thought Michael Martin was correct in moving to expel the various people with findings against them. “He has to be seen to take decisive action”.
Then we got the “They were all at it” line of defence followed by a critique of Enda Kenny and him still being seen with Denis O’Brien despite the Moriarty tribunal findings.
So that was it, this was nothing unique to Fianna Fail and Bertie was in effect innocent!
Funnily enough on the day before Noel Whelan had written a piece in the Irish Times “FF may shut up shop and seek to re-emerge later” which centred around The Mahon Tribunal findings and the future of Fianna Fail.
He wrote of a speech he gave at the McGill Summer School ..

The party, I suggested, might just wither, sitting out the presidential election, losing council seats in the next local election, and a few more seats in each of the next three or four general elections.

Second, I proffered that Fianna Fáil might just be subsumed into Fine Gael: a scenario that is more likely if Labour is on the Opposition benches, say after the next election.

Fianna Fáil might alternatively merge with Sinn Féin, a process that could begin as some kind of loose “popular front” type arrangement on transfers.

Finally I floated the possibility of a News of the World solution to Fianna Fáil’s plight: close up shop and seek, after a period, to re-emerge as part of some new entity.

Any of these scenarios seemed improbable last July but no more improbable than a Fianna Fáil collapse might have seemed four years ago.

All scenarios, and in particular the News of the World option, seem more probable after the Mahon findings.

There have been plenty of other Fianna Fail doom merchants about since also.

Then what comes out the other day only the first Poll taken post Mahon. A Red C Poll for Paddy Power and have Fianna Fail fallen off the face of the earth? Has it dented support?
Fianna Fail were on 15%.

A rogue poll was one suggestion…..
Then ask yourself why would Fianna Fail support fall much after Mahon?
Was there anything that we didn’t know? (by that I mean that certain people were crooked)
And I’m sure my relative wasn’t alone in Fianna Fail feeling vindicated by Bertie not being corrupt…. and sure wasn’t Michael Martin showing great leadership getting Bertie and co to resign.
Of course Swanning around with Denis O’Brien didn’t put Fine Gael or Labour in a particularly good light either.

Not a word about the way Willie O’Dea etc tried to undermine the tribunal.

Of Course the question now is can they break out of that 15% and actually grow to a Party of Power once again, because without a whiff of power they wont prosper. It’s a question I’d love the pollsters to ask, “Would you consider ever voting Fianna Fail?”. In other words how big is the ABFF vote.

Renewal is the current buzzword as they look back at the founding aims of the party.
One of the main paths to renewal in Fianna Fail has been that

“..at the next local elections, Fianna Fail would, where possible, field at least one candidate in every single local authority area under the age of 30.”

As we know one of the biggest problems for Fianna Fail is Dublin. I had a look too at the the 2009 Local elections (Where FF got over 24% of the vote , 17% in Dublin) and how first time Fianna Fail candidates got on.
In 2009 between the various Dublin Councils there were 5 first time candidates elected for Fianna Fail out of 31. (They ran 60 candidates).
Of the five, one was Aoife Brennan, daughter of the late Seamus Brennan TD.
Two were sitting councillors Eoghan O’Brien (co opted to replace his brother Daragh O’Brien) and Daragh Butler with the
other two being David McGuinness and Eamon Walsh. Not a particularly high success rate.

Trying that tactic from a far lower base is very risky and they did make a mess of their 2009 Local Elections campaign in Dublin.

Dublin North, Dublin West and Dublin Mid West 1989, 1992 March 28, 2012

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The Mahon Tribunal covered land deals mainly in the constituencies of Dublin North, Dublin West and Dublin Mid West.
In the 1989 and 1992 General Elections thirteen people stood for Fianna Fail in those constituencies.
They were

Ray Burke
GV Wright
Marian McGennis
Sean Gilbride
Chris Flood
Sean Walsh
Colm McGrath
John Hannon
Charlie O’Connor
Liam Lawlor
Brain Lenihan snr
Olga Bennett
Finbarr Hanrahan

Between the various tribunals etc not too many of them still have their reputations intact. You’d wonder how reflective they were of other areas of the country that have not been investigated.

That New Fianna Fail Video … March 7, 2012

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Fresh from Fianna Fail, presumably an idea from the Ard Fheis .

Its about the past….. and stops in 1970.

Its called ‘Beginnings’ …  Suggestions for the sequels title welcome

Fianna Fáil one year on….. February 27, 2012

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A year on from the General Election and a week before their Ard Fheis is a good time to wonder about the fortunes of Fianna Fail.
In the past year Fianna Fail have been a ‘constructive opposition’ , which is hardly surprising given the current government are continuing on with their policies. In today’s Indo there’s a big headline “FF Tells ‘Cautious’ Martin: time to shape up” with a few TDs complaining that they have given the government an easy time, they don’t know what Fianna Fail stand for and that some TDs aren’t pulling their weight.
One thing mentioned was that there is a bunch of only 8 or so TDs available for media appearances. I presume these were Sean Fleming, Michael McGrath, Billy Kelliher, Niall Collins, Willie O’Dea, Eamon O’Cuiv, Dara Calleary and Sean O Fearghail. Collins, Calleary, McGrath and O’Dea aren’t too bad but they’re not brilliant either.
Due to Fianna Fails period in government they are in effect fighting with one arm tied behind their back. The simple answer of we’ve got to cut back this or that because of the mess you left us with, is one that is hard to argue with. It remains to be seen how long that line will be effective but personally I think it will last a long long time.
Then of course there are other reminders of the past…. there must have been horror in Mount Street last week as John O’Donoghue and later Noel O’Flynn broke their silence and offered to come to the rescue of the party. That’s before we even get to the Moriarty Tribunal findings. There’s talk that decisive action against those found guilty is needed by the party and that certain people should be expelled from the party if they are found guilty of wrongdoing. That’s fair enough and I’d be happy to see it. However it would look like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. How many crooked Fianna Fail politicians from Charlie Haughey down actually were expelled from the party? (Ray Burke? , Liam Lawlor? Colm McGrath?…)

This Ard Fheis is a time for the members to speak, I gather too that it is to be “member led”. I’ve been looking at some Fianna Fail Blogs and various Facebook pages to try and gauge the mood and see what might be in store.
There’s still some “If it wasn’t for Lehmans Brothers we’d be grand” being bandied about and of course there is also a look back to the past achievements of the party. From those past achievements Fianna Fail people hope to look to the future.
A good example would be the Legion of The Rearguard site, “a site created for the grassroots of Fianna Fáil by the grassroots of Fianna Fáil“. The most recent post there “The Fianna Fáil That We Would Have” gives a good insight into what some of the grassroots are thinking. It outlines a list of previous achievements and more. It begins with the following paragraph and takes off from there

The People have judged Fianna Fáil in the recent general election: having found our policies wanting, they have acted accordingly. The extreme economic difficulties that Ireland has suffered over the last four years have their origin during the 14 years of uninterrupted Fianna Fáil lead government and just as the organisation rightly took credit for the Peace Process and Ireland’s unprecedented prosperity which has kept 1.85 million people at work even during recession: Fianna Fáil has taken responsibility for its part in the present crises, has apologised for these failings, and has been doled its electoral punishment.

I don’t think its as simple as that, the apology may have been given but I don’t think it has be accepted yet. The effects of “its part in the present crises” will be felt for a long long time.
There are some internal elections taking place at The Ard Fheis. Looking at some of the candidates leaflets there are some common themes. A bigger say for the party membership is one but many of the others mentioned look to the parties past. Its heritage and tradition. Nearly all of them mention regaining the electorates “trust”.
There are other clues “Fianna Fail needs to be issues driven” , mentions of support for septic tank protests, being against cuts in education.

Two of the major issues though and ones that can’t be remedied in the near future are the lack of women TDs and lack of seats in Dublin. For an insight into the memberships ideas of Dublin its worthwhile checking out the “Fianna Fail Dublin City Focus” Youtube Channel where there is an introduction video by Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick and replies are being uploaded by members.
Darragh O’Brien and Averil Power may get the odd bit of airtime but the lack of Dublin TDs means in the Dail they have nobody directly appealing to Dublin voters, no Dub that Dubs can relate to like (cough) Bertie.
If you have a party that has mainly rural TDs, then rural issues will naturally seem more important. Rural issues will be the ones heard in clinics, raised at local meetings and so on. It’s no coincidence that the Septic Tank charge was reduced as it was one thing Fianna Fail were in a position to oppose and benefit from. Fianna Fail haven’t opposed the Household Tax , in part its a legacy from their own time in office but also when a Property Tax comes in, it will be Dubliners that will have to pay the vast majority of it. If they had TDs in Dublin I’m sure some of them would be kicking up hell at the prospect of their constituents having to fork out anything from 600 to 1,000 a year.
The lack of Dublin TDs also means that there is a lack of choice when it comes to panelists on various TV shows. The performance of David McGuinness in the Dublin West by-election shows that there should be a future for Fianna Fail in Dublin, but its a sign of the times where Fianna Fail are thrilled to have come in second in a by-election for a Fianna Fail seat.

The Sunday Times poll at the weekend saw a rise in support for Sinn Fein among younger women voters, in Mary Lou McDonald they have a role model and regularly when she speaks in the Dail Sandra McLellan is sitting beside her. Fianna Fails lack of women TDs is hurting them, yes they have some female senators and Averil Power does get a bit of airtime on Television she is a Senator and the Seanad or indeed some of her TV performances do not get the same coverage as The Dail does.

We go back though to where does the party stand?
Can it still be the catch all party? … if not who are they battling with?
Is it with Sinn Fein and Labour or with Fine Gael?
What areas can they produce policy in that would be taken seriously by voters?

We’ll know a little more after next weekend.

This Week At The Irish Election Literature Blog January 6, 2012

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Starting off this week with a 1979 Local Elections leaflet from the Socialist Labour Party candidates Bert Bennett, Máirín Breheny, Jim Maher and Dr. Dave Neligan who were running in Artane. In the leaflet there are profiles of the candidates , a message from Noel Browne and policies of the Socialist Labour Party.

On then to a recent Sinn Fein Superhero Beermat

Then from the 1972 Referendum on EEC entry a striking image presented by the Irish Farmers Association “If you don’t want to go back to this…. vote ‘yes’”

Then From 1978 “The Aims of Fianna Fail

Finally from 1992 and 1989 “Greyhound Supporters -Remember Your Friends”

That Didn’t Take Long …… November 1, 2011

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Well you know the way Fianna Fail Guaranteed the Banks and took the bank debts onto our shoulders ….
what was in This Mornings Irish Times only …..
FF urges Kenny to halt payment of Anglo bond bill

Not that I’d disagree with them but they’ve some neck!

Presidential Election and Dublin West didn’t turn out too bad for Fianna Fail at all. October 30, 2011

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On the last bus I found myself sitting amidst some aging Soldiers of Destiny, they were in good form and not just from the drink…..

When what seems an age ago Micheál Martin announced that Fianna Fail would not be fielding a candidate in the Presidential election there were shall we say misgivings among certain elements of Fianna Fail about the decision. It was a bit chaotic, Offering Gay Byrne a nomination yet stopping aspiring internal candidates such as Brain Crowley and Eamon O’Cuiv and thats before we got to the prospective candidacy of Labhrás Ó Murchú in the final few days before
nominations closed. It didn’t bode well for Martins leadership or indeed Fianna Fail.
So Fianna Fail were avoiding the cost of a Presidential election and concentrating their efforts solely on Dublin West candidate
David McGuinness.
Around the same time I had a conversation with someone who had canvassed for Conor Lenihan in February’s election. Naturally the Radio documentary “Dogfight Conor and Charlie” came up in conversation, he said if anything that the documentary had understated some of the hostility towards Conor Lenihan and Fianna Fail. A few stories of close shaves and rows the candidate got into were told. Over the course of the campaign such was the abuse that many had stopped canvassing as it just wasn’t worth the hassle. Looking back at the campaign I remarked that Fianna Fail didn’t call to my door even the once and I live in what was at one stage probably Fianna Fail heartland. I live in one of the only two LEAs in Dublin when in 2009 Fianna Fail candidates were elected on the first count.
So morale in Fianna Fail was low and Martins decision to opt out of the Presidential campaign for some made it lower.

Fast forward to the aftermath of Dublin West and The Presidential election.
The Presidential Election positives for Fianna Fail…
-Martin McGuinness, as feared by many in FF (and other places too) , didn’t hover up the Fianna Fail vote, as the campaign progressed Sean Gallagher did that.
-Fine Gaels performance caused much mirth in Fianna Fail circles. Had they gone with Dev Og or another candidate it could have been them.
– Despite the loss and his ‘Independence’, Sean Gallaghers vote was massive with 28.50% of the vote, many of it from Fianna Fail voters.

Negatives
-It was the links with Fianna Fail that in part led to Gallaghers late collapse. Like many viewers I uttered the word “Bertie” when on the frontline brown envelopes and cheques were mentioned. It also brought back memories of the shady fundraising done by Fianna Fail (and other parties)
-The Gallagher vote was much lower in Dublin and other urban areas than elsewhere. Given that they have no TDs in Dublin Gallaghers low vote there shows that Fianna Fail is still more toxic in Dublin than elsewhere…..

… However the result of David McGuinness in Dublin West will be a huge boost to them. Yes he didn’t win the seat and they are now seatless in Dublin but to increase the party vote from the General Election was a massive achievement (he got a bigger percentage vote and a bigger number of votes than Fianna Fail did in February). He also didn’t do too badly on transfers either.

…. As the last two Soldiers of Destiny left the bus, after their jubilant journey. Their parting shot to each other ….. “Wait til they cut the 4 Billion in December”

Having had little or nothing to be enthused about in a long time, The morale of the Fianna Fail Grassroots is up. Fianna Fail are far from dead yet.

Dublin West and how Fianna Fail and Labours Electoral messages have changed since February … October 8, 2011

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To date I’ve gotten a number of leaflets from Dublin West and naturally the Electoral Messages from the parties have changed since February’s General Election.
I’m going to start with Fianna Fail and Labours leaflets and do another post on the other 3 main candidates (Paul Donnelly of Sinn Fein, Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party/ULA and Eithne Loftus of Fine Gael)
The most radical change is that of Fianna Fails who campaigned as the outgoing government and campaigned on the merits of its National Recovery Plan.
see Brian Lenihans Letter to voters and the Dublin West Real Plan Better Future Leaflet.
Now in opposition, has their electoral message changed? Using the leaflet I have from David McGuinness (posted here)….
First off we see Fianna Fail positioning themselves as a constructive opposition. There is the message that having another government TD won’t be of any benefit to the constituency, nor will voting for Paul Donnelly or Ruth Coppinger be any use either.

“The people of this constituency will not benefit from electing another silent Government Party backbencher, particularly as we already have two TDs sitting in Cabinet. There is also no benefit to be gained by electing another TD who opposes everything and puts ideology first.”

Then we get on to “My Priorities for Dublin West”

Mortgage Pressures
The economic and social plight of families with unsustainable mortgages must be tackled…

Protecting the Vulnerable

We have to restore the economy and protect the most vulnerable as we do so. That’s why I will oppose Government proposals to introduce extra income tax increases and to cut welfare and pensions in December’s budget.”

Supporting our Schools
I will campaign for funding for extra school places. The Government proposes to raise the school starting age to 6, to increase class sizes and to end transition year. I will oppose these short sighted cuts.

Its hard not to be cynical reading the above especially considering the welfare and education cuts carried out by the previous Government …. and that’s before we get to ‘Mortgage Pressures’… a result of the part State sponsored property boom that led to massive house prices that led to massive mortgages …. the lax regulation that led to lax standards when giving out mortgages … the corruption and bad decisions in planning ….the economic collapse …. etc etc etc

So to read the leaflet from McGuinness, you’d get the impression that Fianna Fail were never in government at all.

From Fianna Fail to Labour and Patrick Nultys leaflet from February. The main difference is that his similar leaflet for the by-election (posted here) does not have Eamon Gilmore featured at all, although it does have the candidate pictured with Joan Burton.
The message is roughly the same although in the by-election leaflet amongst other things is

“If elected Patrick will:
“….Strongly support the local campaign to retain services in Connolly Hospital”

The future of services at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown is one of the main issues Sinn Feins Paul Donnelly (His Connolly Hospital Leaflet) and Socialist Party/ ULA candidate Ruth Coppinger (Connolly Hospital mentioned in her newsletter too) are campaigning on.

Nultys leaflet finishes with

“Last February the people voted overwhelmingly for change. This election provides us with a chance to solidify that decision and to elect a voice for equality and justice to the Dail.”

So for Labour this by-election is an opportunity to continue on from February’s election.

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