IRELAND is heading for a three-party system according to eminent psephologist, Aidan Kavanagh, an academic renowned for the uncanny accuracy of his statistical analysis of elections and polls. He predicts that, in the event of a future electoral shake-up, everything points to a larger party system consisting of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. The others parties, Labour, Social Democrats and Independents, will remain as bit-players.
His number crunching of the recent Irish Times/Ipsos-MRBI opinion poll shows that support for Fianna Fáil is down seven points to 26 per cent, Fine Gael is at 26 percent (up 2pc points), and Sinn Féin is at 19 per cent (up 3pc points). He estimates that if national support levels were replicated in an actual general election, the party seat levels would be: Fianna Fáil: 48 seats; Fine Gael: 48 seats; and Sinn Féin: 31 seats.
As for the others, the Anti-Austerity Alliance / People Before Profit would end up with just three seats, Green Party three, Labour Party two, Social Democrats two and Independents 22.
He notes that, whereas polls carried out during the summer were defining moments for FF and FG, in the sense that both were neck and neck (FF at 21% and FG at 20%), Sinn Féin emerged in dramatic fashion with enhanced approval ratings and it is now closer to the two big parties than ever was the case with Labour.
Kavanagh’s contends that a new ‘three-party system’ – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin – may be on the cards and that it could replace the old ‘two-and-a-half party system’ of FF, FG and Labour.
Another poll implication is that Fianna Fáil’s core vote is falling and the party is finding it difficult to recover its traditional support, which is now dispersed among rival groupings. In the meantime, Labour remains a dead duck with a static five per cent poll rating – and, many would say, deservedly so!
Sometimes blaming others can be a cry from the heart and a plea for help. So when Dame Enda set up two internal reviews into Fine Gael’s election disaster, and why the party suffered the loss of a whopping 26 seats, everyone cheered. People wanted to know the reason for the Blueshirts caving-in like a sinkhole.
A root and branch investigation, they thought, would do wonders to restore trust in Kenny and the hotshots – the Varadkars, Coveneys, etc.
But, oh, what a disappointment when two specially commissioned reports agreed that absolutely no one was responsible for the catastrophe. Not Kenny, nor his ministers, nor any of the obscenely paid government advisers!
Conclusion? The general election calamity ... kinda ... just happened.
Commentators attributed the reluctance to blame anyone to the Taoiseach’s endearing furtherance of ‘decent politics’, which is a form of behaviour whereby one doesn’t have to take responsibility for anything!
The reports – one was carried out by an ‘expert’ and the other by a group of TDs and senators – remarkably sang from the same hymn sheet. The expert’s report coyly suggested that the party ‘had struggled with everything from timekeeping to communications, lack of vision and lack of internal debate.’
As a result, Fine Gael was not able to respond quickly to manifestations of the ‘national sentiment’ (Gawd only knows what that meant!).
Arrive on time
The second report, compiled by TDs Maria Bailey, Peter Burke, Alan Farrell, Kate O’Connell, Patrick O’Donovan and Senator Maura Hopkins, came to the conclusion that ‘timekeeping was a problem and that the Taoiseach and ministers should arrive at press briefings on time.’ Everything, they suggested, would be hunky-dory if Dame Enda & Co were a teensy weensy bit more punctual. They also recommended ‘speakers should not appear stiff and uncomfortable when on stage.’
And, er, that was it! Fine Gael’s electoral problems were due to a failure to grasp the ‘national sentiment,’ stiffness on stage, and poor punctuality! These were at the centre of the party’s misfortunes.
On the other hand, there may be other reasons. For instance, is it possible that a narcissistic disorder is besetting Kenny?
If so, it may well explain why he is acting like a teenager going through a moody stage of life, fearful that the pals will abandon him. Perhaps behind the mask Enda is really a rather fragile chap who simply doesn’t know who he is or what he’s at.
But he’s no eegit. He well knows that expulsion from the gang would be the inevitable peer reaction should he come clean on his bungling role in the loss of 26 seats.
On the other hand, if for the sake of the party he admitted being wrong, when in his inner thoughts he believed he was right, well, that would be a giant step in personal confidence building. What’s more, admitting failure would be the action of a leader worth his salt.
But, sadly, he prefers to take the line that nobody is to blame for anything. So, move along, folks, there’s nothing to see here. Clever chap though, that Mr Enda!
Nothing better illustrates Kenny’s sneaky buck passing and his party’s fondness for evading responsibility than the shambolic ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ – the purpose of which is to facilitate a referendum on abortion and, at the same time, to allow the government wash its hands of any direct responsibility for the referendum.
The 99 members of the so-called ‘Assembly’, selected by a private polling company, are charged with representing the views of a population of 4.75 million. But, already constitutional lawyers are concerned that its decision-making processes will be susceptible to influence from specific elites.
Which raises this question: wasn’t there a time when members of the Oireachtas were chosen by the people in a secret ballot and given exclusive power to deliberate on laws and to make laws? Wasn’t that their job?
So, why this farcical ‘Citizens’ Assembly’?
And now for something different! The Gloucestershire News reports that three elderly pensioners were spotted in a Nissan Micra driving wildly across Minchin Hampton Common, and stirring up a herd of cows. A woman was sitting in the boot, dangling out the back of the car, and holding out a bunch of carrots for the cows.
The cows went mad chasing the carrots and the car, while the OAPs roared with laughter. Police are now looking for cows and car!
Oh, and according to the newspaper, a story currently gripping the attention of Tewkesbury inhabitants is whether or not a cash machine should be located in the forecourt of PJ Nicholls’ garage.
Locals complain that it could attract ram-raiders and therefore pose a risk to public safety. Tewkesbury Town Council said it had ‘concerns,’ but the planning committee argued there were five bollards near the cash machine to protect it and users.
And, people say we’re bonkers in Skibbereen!