Battle Lines are Drawn
Deaglán de Bréadún
Eleven days to go – only nine days’ canvassing – and the battle-lines are becoming clearer. I spent an hour at a Sinn Féin press conference in a remote location on the Quays (sorra fear they’d have it somewhere convenient for the hardpressed Leinster House ‘meeja’) where the main issue raised by the journoes, including yours truly, was whether or not Mary Lou McDonald was going to run in the general election.
As in 2004, Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams will be keeping their fingers crossed again (Photograph by Brenda Fitzsimons)
FF have not been raising this so much for whatever reason and have concentrated on the issue of her attendance record at the European Parliament. Ms McDonald is a good speaker but tends to make a speech at press conferences where a more concise response would be in order.
It’s a difficult one: if she says Yes, she will be running in the “General”, then her rivals will immediately come out and, as one voice, say it’s not worth voting for her. The same question has also been raised with Gay Mitchell, with an equally-vague answer. But Mitchell is seen as safe and not contending with FF’s Eoin Ryan for that third and final seat.
If Ms McDonald says No and then turns around and runs for the Dáil, it will also be quite damaging in the longer term. Gerry Adams said Sinn Féin hadn’t decided yet. But the world knows that the SF team in the Dáil does not have anyone on a par with, say, Eamon Gilmore or Richard Bruton. They need Mary Lou in the chamber and, observers say, would be mad not to run her in the General Election. Everyone seems to know this but if SF say it out openly they will lose serious numbers of votes in the European race. Politics is a strange business.
Meanwhile in Ireland East, it is getting sharp and rough. The formidable Avril Doyle had a “right go” at Labour’s Nessa Childers, calling her a “Foxrock Girl” and accusing Labour of shamelessly exploiting her republican/FF family name and background.
It’s true: I have reported on how Ms Childers stood outside Supervalu in Tullow and was introduced again and again and again and again as “Nessa Childers – you probably remember her father, President Childers.”
Irish people are influenced by such considerations. In a way it means they are terrible eejits but there is something endearing about it at the same time: the respect for family and for prominent people who are gone.
Avril Doyle would probably have breezed home if she had run again. Instead, FG have Senator John Paul Phelan, a young, cleancut candidate who can look forward to a good transfer from his runing-mate, Mairéad McGuinness who is an American-style candidate with a big smile and wide appeal.
Ms Childers fluffed a radio interview on agricultural issues and FG were on her case immediately. There will be more of this, if the main opposition party gets its way. Labour may not be offering her for ritual sacrifice on the airwaves, however.
One of the interesting developments in this election is the political cleavage that has developed between FG and Labour. It’s one thing to be joining forces against B. Cowen in the Dáil, another when there are seats in Europe or Leinster House or even on the local council at stake. All’s fair in love and war – and politics.