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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 6, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

    The Elections… the results… the runes

    Harry McGee

    There are tallies galore. With some of them you can read the runes. With others you would be better off reading tealeaves.

    Let us get to the nub of what’s happening.

    This is a mid-term election and a government can weather a lousy mid-term election and survive. Look at Fianna Fail in 2004. Look at Tony Blair’s New Labour during his ten years in power. His party did dismally. Woefully in three European and local election. A number of very bad byelection losses. And it never ruffled his feathers, never affected his Big Picture stuff.

    But this is different, here as in Britain. This isn’t just an electorate taking a swipe at a Government two years into a five year term. There is a much more fundamental shift than that.

    With three separate elections, there are dozens and dozens of narrative threads. The Big Picture stuff can’t be ignored. The tallies and exit polls indicate that Fianna Fail has slumped by 10 per cent.

    And there is a shifting of the plates, which if not tectonic, is hugely significant.

    For the first time since Fianna Fail was formed in 1927, it will no longer be the dominant party in local government. This is hugely significant and will provide a major psychological boost for Fine Gael which will zoom up way past 300 seats while Fianna Fail will slide down the other way. How many seats will it lose? Noel Whelan was saying 60 to 70 earlier in the day. I myself put it at between 40 to 50. I am Mr Fallible when it comes to predictions. Fianna Fail can contain its losses. But it’s still really bad. The party is in the mire.

    So are the Greens. Down from a respectable 18 council seats in 2004 to six or seven. It’s a dismal day for the party. The small print of the Dublin South  byelection for the Greens is that Eamon Ryan’s seat is now vulnerable. The party is now facing the biggest crisis of its existence.

    Sinn Fein didn’t too hot either. Bertie Ahern declared the party the winner after 2004. There’s been huge slippage, especially in Dubin where the party has seeped support to Labour and to the smaller socialist parties.

    And they have been huge winners. People before Profit (the Socialist Workers in disguise) will have at least three councillors. The Socialist Party will also do well.

    Labour have been huge winners. Eamon Gilmore has a populist appeal that had given the party fantastic purchase, even though he is suspect on some detail, not very strong on the economy. Given that, he’s given his party a bounce that will see it make massive gains and could see it coming back with three MEPs.

    Fine Gael are also big winners. George will give it a boost. The local elections are good. The only dents in the escutceon is Dublin Central and the Europeans where it won’t maintain five seats.

    The tallies on European elections are too patchy to make any firm predictions. But Declan Ganley may be performing stronger than anticipated. If he succeeds, it will be a disaster for Brian Cowen. However, he will have difficulty attracting transfers. He is “toxic” on that score, according to a person who is in the know.

    Joe Higgins currently looks strongest to take the third Dublin seat. If the tallies are correct, Eoin Ryan is a gonner. However, the tallies are really really unreliable.

    Many strands. Many narratives. Many runes. Most of them are really bad for the Government.

    Micheal Martin on RTE at lunchtime was very interesting when he referred to the volatility of modern politics. Fianna Fail’s loss of core support began to happen a decade ago but was disguised by economic prosperity. The reality is that in the futre, few votes will be guaranteed to any party no matter what happens.

    We are also going to have a General Election within a year.

    • dealga says:

      That one quarter of the people who could be bothered voting voted Fianna Failed is depressing.

      55% (lower than 2004, right?) is a miserable turnout, all things considered. Most people finish work slightly earlier, the weather was good and, most importantly, the opportunity to make our voices heard was there. It’s about time that laziness and self-interest masquerading as ‘disillusionment with politics’ is highlighted for the nonsense it is.

      The only excuse for that turnout would have been FF voters ‘abstaining’ and a complete collapse in their vote. Instead their loyalists have still turned out and the people have chosen to let Fianna Failed off the hook.

      As bad as it is for them it should have been worse.

    • Mr Livid says:

      I agree, Dealga. Fianna Fáil should have been virtually wiped out after leading the country into an economic s**t-storm that our grandchildren will still be paying for in decades to come. Obviously some people are gullible enough to believe Cowen’s guff about this being caused by global factors. Everyone with the capacity for independent thought knew that ridiculous house-prices were unsustainable and that the public finances were perilously over-reliant on the property market. This is an Irish problem created by Fianna Fáil which has been exacerbated by the global financial mess.

      I heard Noel Dempsey earlier saying his party was paying the price for difficult but necessary decisions. What a load of bull. Fianna Fáil wouldn’t have had to make those difficult decisions if they hadn’t f**ked everything up in the first place.

      On another note, Fine Gael are this weekend’s big winners. Does anyone really believe they would have done things any differently?

      If there was an election tomorrow, we’d just replace one group of centre-right conservatives with another.

    • Brian Boru says:

      Another loser in this election are the pollsters – at least with respect to constituency polling. They missed the late Ganley/Colm Burke/surge. They will have to revisit their methodologies with respect to constituency polling. I think their accuracy is okay at national level, but that – as with 2007 (when Seamus Kirke and Noel Grealish were supposed to lose their seats in polls) – constituency polling remains a work-in-progress in this country.

    • Ripped Off says:

      Have to agree with Mr Livid regarding Fine Gael. Over the years they have mirrored FF policies – same story different author.

      I’m guessing that a change in allegiance by Public/Civil Servants, who traditionally vote Fianna Fail, will have had no small impact on the election results. When you take money away from somebody (pension levy) you cannot reasonably expect that person to still be your buddy when they come knocking on your door looking for a favour (vote).

    • dealga says:

      We’re destined for perpetual centre-right government in this country. Genuine Social Democracy will never attract more than 25% of the electorate when push comes to shove.

      The only real choice we have at elections is to decide who we want taking our money off us and who’ll spend that money most effectively.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      The Greens have spent two decades painstakingly building up and in only two years in government with FF have almost lost it all, for what?

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