New Dail term will see battles in Government and Opposition

TDs privately concede more interest in next month’s budge than Seanad referundum

On the Opposition benches, the battle for supremacy will continue between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, with next summer’s elections heightening the tension between them.

On the Opposition benches, the battle for supremacy will continue between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, with next summer’s elections heightening the tension between them.

Sat, Sep 14, 2013, 01:00

The new Dáil term, which starts on Wednesday, will be dominated by next month’s Seanad referendum, the budget and next summer’s European and local elections.

The office of the Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe is putting together the legislative programme which will be published on Wednesday.

Much is at stake for all parties in the new Dáil session. The Government parties, Fine Gael and Labour, will be looking to the summer elections with a degree of unease. Will voters, weary of austerity, take out their revenge on the Government parties ?

What of Labour, in particular? Is it destined to pay the price of participation in government, where voters flock in their numbers to support the party in a general election only to find it disappoints in government ?

Labour defections

Could the Budget see more Labour defections ?

“I don’t know what we can do to impress the public,’’ said a Labour TD yesterday. “We are scandal-free and mean well. I suppose we promised too much in the last election.’’

On the Opposition benches, the battle for supremacy will continue between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, with next summer’s elections heightening the tension between them. In the run-up to the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016, both parties are claiming a republican heritage.

Those within Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin privately admit that claiming a republican past is largely irrelevant to the majority of Irish people.

“People want the economy sorted out,’’ said a Fianna Fáil source. “Revisiting 1916 will impress very few people, particularly the unemployed, the young and those with mortgage problems.’’

Referendum

All parties privately admit the Seanad referendum is not engaging voters. The consensus is that those who will vote, in a low turnout, will make up their minds in the last week of the campaign.

“People’s eyes glaze over when I mention it,’’ said a Fine Gael backbencher. “They are much more interested in the budget, water charges and matters that affect their pockets and livelihoods.’’

The Independent TDs, meanwhile, are on a high as successive polls show them attracting the support of one-third of the electorate. They can be expected to make considerable mischief for the Government and the Opposition parties in the new Dáil term.

With Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams facing up to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste while also striving to dominate the Opposition benches, the new Dáil term will see as much jockeying for position on the Opposition benches as in Government.

MICHAEL O’REGAN