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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 17, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

    Fianna Fail prospects in local and Euro elections

    Harry McGee

    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.

    However, the concept of naughty step no longer quite covers the scale of the bother that Fianna Fail is in.

    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…

    • Kynos says:

      They’re gonna get nuked. About seven years too late.

    • dealga says:

      Considering Sinn Féin’s attitude to Europe where (and I’m opent to correction) they have spoken out of both sides of their mouth on every single referendum – claiming to support the EU but opposing every referendum – I am hopeful the Joe Higgins will take enough votes off that cliché machine McDonald to keep her out.

    • Brian Boru says:

      While from a traditional FF family, I will be voting FG in the locals. My reasoning is the former’s reputation for massive corruption in local-government. They have lain down with the dogs of the construction sector and woken up with fleas in terms of their ethical standards. I do not regard locals and general elections as analogous. Even were FF performing well in govt, I think there’s a lot to be said for the US concept of separation of powers, and checks and balances. It’s unhealthy for democracy and fighting corruption to have the same party dominant in both national and local spheres.

    • Fianna Fail has made a significant contribution to the present awful debacle in public finance and should be unelectable if it wasn’t for the continued “tribal” parish pump and crony cartel grass roots system which has given them succour and suffocated the country. Let’s get it clear: Cowen’s boorish and abusive behaviour in the Dail against those who would dare question his right to ” run the country the way I see fit” while nearly foaming at the mouth with rage is a pathetic display of oafish bad manners, not an impassioned display of strong political speech. Most outside intellligent observers and experts from all over the economic and political sphere are of the opinion that Fianna Fail govt policy under Bertie and Minister Cowen and now Taoiseavh Cowen has made Ireland’s situation in this world crisis significantly worse, through overspending, overdependence on the construction industry, bad planning, quangos, etc etc and now NAMA which seems to be the government’s way of taking out an enormous loan gamble and betting they can pick up where they left off, somewhere down the line. It’s a big gamble and the final result of one of the most incompetent administrations in the history of the Irish Republic and one that must not go unpunished

    • Steve Rawson says:

      Harry,

      I found your analysis of the Dublin European election constituency interesting, where you state that Deirdre de Burca is the dark horse alongside Mary Lou McDonald as a possibility for pipping Eoin Ryan for the third seat.

      Certainly Fianna Fáil are polling poorly at around 25% nationally and some put their Dublin position at around 14% which would make Eoin Ryan’s seat decidedly shaky… One of the factors though is that Fianna Fáil’s coalition partners, the Greens, are also polling poorly in what is traditionally fertile ground for them. Indeed a recent report in your own paper put them at 3% in Dublin which would mean that, if these trends continued into the Euro election, the Green candidate would be quickly eliminated.

      Certainly Deirdre de Burca is a good candidate who will run a professional campaign. However, while known in media and political circles Deirdre’s profile is extremely low across the constituency. In fact, I would go so far as to contend that the Greens made a strategic gaffe by failing to run Deirdre in East where the Greens poll percentage is higher. By failing to run Deirdre there, the Greens may have left the door open for Nessa Childers to regain a seat for Labour.

      I would also contend that you may be guilty of a sin of omission by failing to mention Joe Higgins who has now officially announced his candidacy and is a popular and well known candidate. Another key factor is Eoin Ryan’s running mate, the current Lord Mayor Cllr. Eibhlinn Byrne. Cllr. Byrne will sweep up Fianna Fáil votes on the north side of the city but significantly for Deirdre she has the policies (strong on social justice & equality issues), personality and profile and an appeal outside of Fianna Fáil. All of these combined factors point to her taking votes from the same pool as Deirdre de Burca.

      While European elections always produce imponderables, I do feel that your analysis was somewhat narrow in its predictions.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Harry, a big factor this time for FF will be turnout. Are people angry enough to come out and give the government a kicking or just too darn tired and drained by the last 18 months to bother.

      It sort of got lost in the coverage of the elections 5 years ago but the turnout was up significantly on the previous locals in 1999 in some areas and that is what cost FF so many seats.

      Artane where I ran went from 32% turnout to 55% and that 20% increase was pretty much replicated across Dublin. The increases weren’t as high outside of Dublin but they were there nonetheless. So the key question will be are people angry or ambivalent. The other thing is that with all the real news about the place, the banks the economy etc. the actual elections themselves aren’t a story it would seem. Indeed much of the commentary is almost taking the result as a foregone conclusion. And 5 years ago the same foregone conclusion was that FG would lose a good many seats and that FF would lose a few but not many, and we all know how that prediction worked out.

      Fact is that with contesting the election only requiring a €100 deposit don’t be surprised to see some independent minded groupings or individual emerge at the last minute with a message of “feicim go léir” if you catch my drift.

    • Chris says:

      Totally disagree with Steve Rawson. Deirdre de Búrca would not find support in Wicklow and Nessa Childers will romp home…I gave Deirdre my No. 1 vote in the last election…because I voted for change. What did I get…not change but a shoring up of FF which totally betrayed my vote. No. Never again…I will never vote for the Greens again…they have shown that they are yellow not green. They have supported the insupportable just to hold onto their own lucrative careers, salaries, pensions, expenses etc.etc. This is not about the common good this is all about the mein féin good. Haven’t seen sight nor light of Deirdre since the last election. What exactly has she done for Wicklow? Social equality and justice my foot…that’s a rather hard concept to pin down isn’t it? How do you measure performance in this area? A homeless man died on the steps of a pharmacy in Wicklow Town last winter…is that social equality? Is it just? The homeless, the vulnerable and the mentally ill in our society are invisible and the elected representatives don’t give them a second thought when they place their own heads on feather pillows at night. So please, don’t insult us with a Green Party Political Broadcast on behalf of Deirdre de Búrca…who after all failed to win a seat in Wicklow in the last election but was “appointed” by Bertie to the Seanad. And they want us to think that this is democratic!

    • Peter B says:

      I agree with you completely Chris.

    • JerryF says:

      The choice is pretty simple. If you like the way things are going, pick Fianna Fail. If you don’t, vote for change. FG is not change. Sinn Fein is change you can believe in.

    • Darren Prior says:

      I have heard of one FG TD say that he personally would rather Ryan than McDonald lost his seat. I don’t know. Most of us know which lot are worse but the worst of the lot of them are not the largest party in the state.

      Btw. Harry are you going to put up those three or four links I sent to you of FG members blogs includind my own http://www.darrenjprior.com…???

    • John Daly says:

      The Roman senator, Cato used to finish every speech with the words “Delenda Est Carthago” – Carthage must be destroyed. The mantra now should be Delenda Est Fianna Fáil. It’s just about the only way that Ireland can be rid of the cronyism that has brought us to this position. It’s also time for FG to do everything to oust them with votes of confidence. And withdraw the pairing arrangements. It’s incredible to think that Bertie Ahern is paid over 250k per annum and he doesn’t even show up in the Dáil anymore. Worse, he’s facilitated in this by FG who pair him all the time for Dáil votes.

      DELENDA EST FIANNA FÁIL


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