Fianna Fail prospects in local and Euro elections
I was in Tullamore last night for the launch of Fianna Fail’s local election campaign for Offaly with 27 candidates for both council and urban elections.
The turnout was impressive. A packed hall. Every bush in the county was beaten to get the infantry out.
All the prospective candidates (26 that I counted) were seated along a long bench that straddled the entire length of the stage. Among them were the Taoiseach’s brother Barry (every bit as obdurate as his sibling) and the irrespressible John Foley, who told me that the You Tube clip showing his famous Ard Fheis disappearance act has now accumulated 40,000 hits.
Cowen gave a stump speech that wasn’t his best ever but hit all the spots, including a good old-fashioned dig at the opposition.
For me, that bit of attack politics was refreshing to hear. What’s wrong with a bit of passion and putting down the other side rather than the monotonous techno-speak he resorts to when he or his handlers decide that it’s better to be careful?
Many of my colleagues subscribe to the the following proposition: a Taoiseach must be presidential and statesmanlike and shouldn’t be seen to lose the rag; or to argue forcibly; or to bark at the oppositon; or to raise the voice.
Me, I just don’t agree. Whoever it is, if they believe passionately (even angrily or aggresively) in a point or object fundamentally to an accusation, it’s better to let it all out. Even if you are leader of the State.Watch and read the sayings of Paul Keating, my all-time hero in this regard. He still managed to achieve the status of statesman to boot.
That’s a bit of a digression. Cowen didn’t rise to any spectacular heights last night but gave enough tonic for the troops.
And Fianna Fail, on the face of it, looked relatively healthy, judging by the crowd and that elusive quality of mood and atmosphere.
That said, last night was not representative. Offaly, being the Taoiseach’s home patch, will always live up to its faithful county reputation. And it remains one of the most stubborn Fianna Fail strongholds in the country.
Elsewhere, you just can’t see the party recovering from the battering it has taken in the polls over the past few months.
I’ve spoken to local election candidates who have told me about how much hard work and hostility they are encountering on doors. Already you see a couple of promininet Fianna Fail candidates playing down the party brand and trading on their own individual qualities.
Local elections have traditionally served the purpose of being the “naughty step?” for the party in Government. Fianna Fail took a whipping 2004 partly because of its perceived duplicity in the run-up to the 2002 election.
The punishment meted out to it in the local and European elections will only be devastating.
The party will take a drubbing in the locals particularly in urban and extra-urban area.
And could the unimaginable happen and could Eoin Ryan fail to hang onto his seat in the Dublin constituency? You would be brave to call it, but the poll figures make him look very very vulnerable. Gay Mitchell and Proinsias de Rossa will coast home. It could be down to a battle between Ryan and Mary Lou McDonald, with Deirdre de Búrca as a dark horse…