Miriam Lord: It’s political springtime as plethora of elections and referendums loom

Labour is a tough old beast. It’ll be up to Joan to put the fight back into the party

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin: has worked hard around the country building up the organisation while having to contend with a large awkward squad (particularly among Senators) within his small parliamentary party. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin: has worked hard around the country building up the organisation while having to contend with a large awkward squad (particularly among Senators) within his small parliamentary party. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Happy New Year!

It’s all ahead of us.

Unfortunately.

We have at least one byelection, two referendums and a rapidly approaching general election to concentrate the mind.

And first off, the pre-election party conferences. Not too far away now.

Fine Gael will be first off the blocks with a jamboree in Castlebar next month. The venue is the TF Royal Theatre, scene of the 2011 election count for Mayo when a triumphant Enda Kenny was returned to the Dáil with three FG running mates and the key to the Taoiseach’s office.

But after a promising start and buckets of goodwill from the public and press, it’s all gone terribly wrong.

The party had a dreadful 2014, and this year hasn’t exactly begun on a high note with the hospital trolley scandal and news of Frank Flannery’s return to Enda’s confidence. The veteran strategist may be too valuable for a beleaguered Taoiseach to ignore, but the restoration of ultimate political insider Flannery doesn’t look good to a weary and cynical electorate. Choosing the TF Royal seems an attempt to recapture the feelgood factor from that optimistic day when Kenny attained high office and national spirits lightened at the prospect of a new politics.

Annual conference

This will be noteworthy as the first conference to be addressed by a female party leader, but Joan Burton will have little to celebrate as Labour heads into what could be electoral meltdown.

However, as the oldest political party in the country, Labour is a tough old beast. It’ll be up to Joan to put the fight back into the party.

The recrimination and angst of the two previous weekends won’t be replicated in Derry when Sinn Féin pitch up for their ardfheis on March 6th. Members will suffer their annual agony of wondering whether to vote for Gerry Adams as party president in the modern surrounds of the Millennium Forum Theatre and Conference centre.

We may be sticking our neck out here, but we tentatively predict Gerry will prevail and walk out on to the largest theatre stage in Ireland to deliver his address as party president for the 32nd year.

After a break in the conference cycle, Micheál Martin returns to the RDS in Dublin on April 24th for the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis. Dublin is important to the Soldiers of Destiny. In terms of Dáil representatives in the capital, the party has gone from Fianna Fáil to Fianna Eff All.

Martin has worked hard around the country building up the organisation while having to contend with a large awkward squad (particularly among Senators) within his small parliamentary party,

Neck and neck

There will be other conferences. But not party ones. Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, Stephen Donnelly and sundry AN Others will be holding a rally to discover themselves and the umbrella under which they intend to huddle.

And don’t bet against Richard Boyd Barrett and Joe Higgins and like-minded individuals doing the same thing, but leaning to the left under their umbrella, once they find it.

Lucinda Creighton had a reform rally last year and is close to discovering herself and her umbrella, which she plans to put up next month. This will probably involve another gathering. Welcome, Ireland’s Political Spring.

We’ll be exhausted.

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