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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 1, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

    Fine Gael pulls a stroke to zilch FF’s Ryan

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The Political Cute Hoor of the Week Award (even though it’s still only Monday) goes to Frank Flannery for his statement that Fine Gael would be willing to work with Sinn Féin to put Fianna Fáil out of office.


    Enda and Frank: what are they cooking up? (Photograph by Eric Luke)

    The only plausible interpretation is that he wants to put the kibosh once and for all on Eoin Ryan’s chances of re-election to the European Parliament in the Dublin Constituency.

    In a newspaper interview, Mr Flannery said his party would even consider taking part in a coalition government that included Sinn Féin: “Let’s suppose that Fine Gael and Labour were short and Sinn Féin had the numbers. Could I see that, theoretically?  I could see that happen.”

    Of course he was “speaking now in a personal way” and there were still problems over the paramilitary issue and SF’s attitude to past violence. And then, as sure as night follows day, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny popped-up on RTE’s This Week programme that Fine Gael had a policy of not “doing business” with Sinn Féin.

     Mr Flannery is Fine Gael’s National Director of Elections and the most believable explanation, by several country miles, for his sudden interest in Sinn Féin – it was the lead story in the Irish Mail on Sunday – is that it would send a signal to Gay Mitchell’s supporters in the Dublin race that it was OK to give SF’s Mary Lou McDonald their Number Two. She needs transfers – at least Ryan has a running-mate, Lord Mayor Eibhlín Byrne.

    When I pressed Eoin Ryan a couple of weeks back on the issue of transfers, he said he was urging FF supporters to transfer to pro-EU parties. He is no doubt hoping that FG voters will take the same attitude and give him their second preference instead of Ms McDonald.

    The problem for FG is that, whereas they will do well in terms of votes cast, they are virtually certain to lose that second seat in Ireland East/Leinster. If Avril Doyle were standing again, she would be a virtual shoo-in, whereas Senator John Paul Phelan doesn’t seem to have much chance against Labour’s Nessa Childers (Did you know she is the daughter of the former President? Oh, and by the way, she is the daughter of the former President. And while we’re at it, her father was President of Ireland. Well, I know, because a Labour canvasser said it in my presence 500 times.)

    The danger for FG is that the Big Story of the election could be: “Fianna Fáil holds four seats against the odds; Fine Gael down from five to four”. That would take the shine off things for Frank and Enda et al.

    You would think Brian Cowen would be in Dublin, canvassing his guts out for Ryan. In recent days he’s been in South/Munster, where Brian Crowley is the greatest certainty since Italy beat San Marino way back whenever and he’s been in North-West, where Pat the Cope is a very strong candidate. There’s still some time left. (On the other hand, he might be a liability in the current climate.)

    Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern of Fianna Fáil says Flannery’s comments are “astounding” and “shocking”. Those with long memories will recall that, speaking to reporters at Hillsborough Castle on 12 October 2004, Mr Ahern said in reference to politics south of the Border: “It is only a matter of time that Sinn Féin will be in government in the future. But until such time as the IRA demonstrably show that they have put down arms forever and a day. . . there cannot be two armies. ”

    “That is the reality. It is the same in the North as it is in the Republic. That would be the position, depending on what happens as regards the entire issue of putting down arms forever.”

    He continued: “There will come a time, I envisage, where Sinn Fein will be in government in the Republic as they will be in the North. I hope that happens in the future.”

    Did that mean a coalition between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin? “Well, with other parties, and conceivably with Fianna Fáil.”

    • Keith says:

      Goodness! Dermot Ahern speaking out of both sides of his mouth? Who would have thunk it!?!?

    • Deaglán says:

      I see Mr Cowen is in Dublin today. And Mary Harney has come out with a statement in support of Eoin Ryan. This is war to the knife!

    • Philip says:

      Another affect (or is it effect) is that this could give Fianna Fail a boost from the anti-Sinn Fein people who might have voted with Fine Gael but in light of Flannery’s comment might have second thoughts

    • Brian Boru says:

      It’s interesting that in the Red C poll yesterday, SF and FF are level in the local elections on 10%. We may be about to witness the final phase of the extinction of Fianna Fáil in our large cities, and their relegation to the status of rural party.

    • Brian Boru says:

      I mean’t 10% in Dublin for FF and SF.

    • Ray D says:

      Flannery is in the long tradition of the extreme left wing and republican party that is Fine Gael. Remember a predecessor to Flanagan -Sean? O’Leary who had enormous sympathy in the Seventies (early Eighties?) with the Workers’ Party and their policies. FG were their blood brothers at election time.

      Flannery is telling it like it is. Fact is that Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Labour would go into Government with anybody. A major weakness of all our parties is that they will go into Government with anybody if it gets their hands on the Mercs and perks.

      Similar reason why Greens won’t pull the plug until next year at the earliest as they have to stay for three years to get the pinshin. They’re all in it for the money.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      If FG could get SF transfers to trend more to them than to FF then a 2nd seat in East would be more likely and also potentially possible in south though less likely.

      Don’t be astounded if the 2 FG candidates in South are a lot closer together than might have been expected.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:

      Maybe Sinn Fein having voted last September for the blanket guarantee of the banks, including the Anglo Irish, made them more acceptable to Fine Gael who voted likewise?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      That could be true Joanna but we’re still wanting to hear what Labour would have done that fateful night when the banks thought they were going to the wall.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:


      Labour voted against the blanket guarantee. If it were in Government it would not have agreed it.

      This is Joan Burton’s statement from today on that blanket guarantee and the alternative:
      ‘Anglo Irish should be foremost in voters minds this Friday’


    • Mel says:

      That’s not really an answer Joanna.


    • Ray D says:

      I’m afraid all these theories about Flannery’s comments helping Paschal Donohoe or Ryan are rather rich and silly. Also they are certainly not designed to help SF.

      What is certain is that Fine Gael will get vastly more Labour transfers than SF ones and that Labour will get vastly more Fine Gael transfers also. What is also certain is than SF will get practically no transfers from either party.

      What is more plausible is that SF will decide the Dublin Central seat probably for M. O’Sullivan and either SF or Higgins will win the Dublin Euro seat with the transfers from Higgins/McDonald and McKenna in particular. There will be no transfers from Labour or Fine Gael in that instance.

      If SF weren’t the subject of so much smearing, and so got more transfers, they would probably win both seats with Mary Lou and Christy Burke

    • Deaglán says:

      So why did Frank say it then? His track record in winning seats is quite good, you know.

    • Ray D says:

      I still like my second comment.

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