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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 3, 2009 @ 10:50 am

    Frank Speaking from Flannery

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Another angle to Frank Flannery’s public intervention (for previous post on this subject, click here) in the election may be an attempt to influence the result of the Dublin Central byelection. Sinn Féin’s Christy Burke is a candidate whose popularity exceeds that of his party. If FG’s Paschal Donohoe can attract SF transfers, so much the better from the main opposition party’s point of view.

     bertieahern.jpg

    The Bert in happier times: could he pull off an unlikely coup for De Brudder?

    It’s almost impossible to predict the result in ‘Central. Everyone has a different “favourite”, whether it’s Maureen O’Sullivan (the “Gregory” candidate), Labour’s Ivana Bacik, the aforementioned Christy Burke, FG’s Donohoe and, last but not last, De Brudder, Maurice Ahern, who has Bertie’s machine behind him. What a coup it would be for Bertie to get him in, but it seems very unlikely.

    Enda Kenny’s unconvincing dismissals notwithstanding, the deeper and more longterm significance of Flannery’s move may turn out to be the opening of a door to SF for participation in the next government which, incidentally, could potentially be formed without a general election, if the mood in Leinster House was right.

    Yours truly was asked on the Vincent Browne show on TV3 last night to make a prediction for the Dublin Euro constituency. Pressed to the wall, I said it would be “Eoin Ryan by a short head” now that Garret FitzGerald and Pat Cox (not to mention Mary Harney)  have come out in his support (or at least in favour of giving him transfers). It was with some trepidation that I said it and Ryan’s performance on RTE’s Prime Time earlier did not enhance confidence. Don’t slag me off too much on Saturday if I’m proved wrong!

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Deaglán, I know I’m probably flogging this to death but there is no way that FG would repeat the mistake of 94 and go into government without having allowed the people to give their verdict on FF. If FG had gone to the country for a mandate in 94 they could have ensured FF were out of power for a decade. If it were to be repeated now by creating a patchwork quilt of a government faced by 75 FF TDs in opposition then I think the landscape for FF would be very good in 3 years time. If they’re down then they must be let back again.

      If the government falls in the Oireachtas then the people must have their chance to pass their verdict and FG and whoever, should they get the seats needed, can then seek to govern for the next 5 years and take the necessary actions knowing that they have the time and space to get it right.

    • Deaglán says:

      I am not at all sure that FG would have won an election in 1994. In fact, from his own point of view, Albert Reynolds should have called an election instead of stepping down as leader. Remember that he was trailing clouds of glory from his role in securing the IRA ceasefire and the virtual end to the campaign of violence in the North. I covered those events as a reporter and often dwell on them since. The FF-Labour breaku-up was over . . . what? Would anyone like to give their explanation? Dan?

    • pj o neil says:

      De Brudder is a sure thing ! Sure doesn’t he have the backing of Eric Cantona ,the old friend of Bertie’s who didn’t know him from a hole in a Crumlin wall and all Man United behind him, except for Ken Loach whose party he gatecrashed so disgracefully

    • Brian Boru says:

      My reading of this seat is that there’s a leftwing seat in here, but that should FG succeed in winning here, it may be a harbinger that it is eating into the working-class vote so long the preserve of FF. At this stage, most of the Irish are probably middle-class, but this part of the electorate is still crucial.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Deaglán, a quick election heading into Christmas against the backdrop of a government that had appeared to some to screw things up over a child-molesting priest?

      FF had come back after 92 with 66 seats and lost a few in by elections between then and ’94. In a post-Brendan Smith environment I think FG, Lab and DL would have come back with a workable majority if Albert had opted for an election. And Bertie was an unknown quantity at the time.

      Why did the government fall? Basically because Albert wasn’t treating Labour as a partner in government; instead he viewed them as there to deliver votes for whatever he sought to do, like appoint someone who was a mate to the High Court.

      It’s not that FG would have won a majority but that it would have done two things, install the Rainbow with a mandate and a mandate for 5 more years. Imagine that rainbow going to the country in ’99 or even late ’98 with the Celtic Tiger in full bloom. And secondly it would have placed FF in opposition with under 60 seats. Needing to gain nearly 20 in order to be able to do a deal with anyone other than Labour, and also sharing opposition with the PDs, the Greens and with a more vocal SF. They wouldn’t have had the opposition side to themselves.

      If the rainbow had won again in 98 it would be the first time FF had lost 3 elections in a row (92/94/98) and would have led to the ousting of Bertie and the sort of internal faction fighting that FG went through.

    • Sally Lechich says:

      vote for JOE HIGGINS and get real people….
      and get honest…he is truly your only hope.

    • Deaglán says:

      Dan, If Albert had gone to the country, I believe he would have swept home because of his role in bringing about the IRA ceasefire which was effectively the end of the troubles. He took huge risks for that and the electorate would have given him his reward (contrast Haughey’s timidity in the matter.)
      The issue of the priest who was or wasn’t pursued would have vanished after a few days. There were serious issues at stake but, even now, it is hard to discern fact from rumour.
      Labour had lost two byelections in Cork and were uneasy about the Beef Tribunal – an issue that didn’t bother the punters, some would say to their shame. Look how well Lowry does in Tipp.
      John Bruton a fine man in many respects but did not have great popular appeal.

    • Robespierre says:

      Deaglán, the media seem to be moving on from this story which seems extraordinary to me. Kenny has accused the Greens in general and Trevor Sargent in particular of lying. Many people who have watched Sargent since he was first elected believe the man to be of the highest probity. I almost doubt him capable of lying.

      If true, this would mean that Kenny is in fact misleading the public on the issue of a naked power-grab at all costs in 2007. He or an associate asked the Greens to sound out SF/IRA as to their willingness to support a patchwork quilt of a coalition. Front- bench policy remains that the promises given to the widow of Garda Jerry McCabe preclude FG going into government with a party incapable of condemning the murder and with an Army Council in place.

      Furthermore, Kenny has been speaking about his integrity and honesty and high standards in high office for seven years. If he caught out lying on the record his position would be untenable. I cannot understand how this has been allowed to slip off the radar.

      I hope somebody has their political antennae up.

    • Greenswatcher says:

      “Many people who have watched Sargent since he was first elected believe the man to be of the highest probity. I almost doubt him capable of lying.”

      Surely you jest, the man said he’d never take the Greens into coalition with FF!!!

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      The issue of the Beef Tribunal didn’t bother the punters that much but it didn’t given them great confidence in Albert Reynolds either. The ceasefire was certainly broadly welcomed and popular on the surface but it was still early days on whether or not there would be any lasting progress and so people were less confident that it might appear now. It wasn’t seen as being in the bag by any means. The ceasefire was only a few months old and at that stage people remembered that there were previous prolonged ceasefires which had ended. And as the permanent/complete argument at the beginning showed, it was going to be slow, slow progress.

      And I’m not sure idea that the people were inclined to somehow be universally grateful to Reynolds for something that most people realised John Hume had been chipping away at for years.

      In Nov 1994 the IMS poll of Nov 18th had both FG and Labour under 20% support but FF were under 30%! The PDs might well have made some hay in that situation and it is possible that the original rainbow might have been configured of FG, PD and Lab. I accept entirely that John Bruton didn’t have great popular appeal but the public didn’t have great disdain for him either. People might not have loved him but he was seen as a serious (perhaps too serious) politician.

      Albert Reynolds wasn’t someone who was beloved by the people either, perhaps unfairly given that he personally achieved proportionately more in his time as Taoiseach than Haughey did.

    • Gregory says:

      We must do all that we can to ensure Mr. Ahern does not sully the nation by becoming the next President.Every avenue must be explored, every candidate unearthed to stop this monstrous event unfolding. A man who left office under a cloud and who presided over the demise of the economy now wants to be rewarded with the top job in the land. Has he lost all touch with reality. His true position has been reached as a newspaper sports columnist. Isn’t that enough for us all to bear?


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