Needed: Lucky Fianna Fáil Generals
Deaglán de Bréadún
The counting of votes in the European elections won’t start until 9pm on Sunday June 7th but we should know the outcome of the by-elections in the Dublin Central and Dublin South constituencies sometime the previous day, probably around lunchtime, and the make-up of the local authorities will also be known on the Saturday.
Just the man to lead FF?
(Photograph: Frank Miller)
Since most EU states vote on June 7th instead of our chosen date of June 5th, we cannot start counting our Euro-ballots until the rest of Europe has also carried out its civic duty. That’s for fear that we might influence the result elsewhere: a slim possibility but you can’t be too careful.
All the anecdotal evidence currently suggests wipe-out for Fianna Fáil. Contacts say the Soldiers and Soldierettes of Destiny are getting dog’s abuse at the doors. Poll figures confirm the party’s low standing. There is little sign that the public is swallowing the harsh medicine required to stabilise (never mind restore) the economy. There is resentment, anger and despair on all sides and the people have more chips on their shoulders than you would get in a “wan-and-wan” at a Burdock’s fish-shop.
Imagine yourself as a Fianna Fáil minister stepping in front of the cameras on Monday June 8th. If you are in wipe-out territory, what do you say? Tough it out, is probably the best option. “We are taking the necessary steps to ensure the future of this country. We knew these measures wouldn’t be popular but there was no other option, but it was our patriotic duty to think of future generations.” Et cetera.
If the results are really as bad as the coffee-cooler conversation and pubtalk suggest, there may surely be internal party repercussions. TDs will become even more anxious about losing their seats in the next general election and some may jump ship a la Joe Behan. The “general” isn’t due until 2012 but if the Government starts losing votes in the Dáil it could be an awful lot sooner.
Napoleon used to say he wanted lucky generals. Brian Cowen has not had much luck so far. Maybe Bertie Ahern’s popularity will bring the FF candidate home in Dublin Cental, especially if it’s his brother, Maurice. The party’s selection convention is next Wednesday night. Maybe Fine Gael won’t hold its two seats in Ireland East/Leinster. Maybe the ball will bounce right for Cowen at last and our putative FF minister will be able to say: “It could have been worse, we held our own under very difficult circumstances, governments hardly ever win by-elections and our economic message is beginning to sink in at last.”
Maybe the polls and the commentators are all wrong, but it seems unlikely. Bertie Ahern was poking fun at the political pundits this week, pointing out that at a book-launch that, despite their prophecies of doom, he ended up winning the May 2007 general election. “The Bert” was indeed a lucky general.