Politicians getting it in the ear!

January 26th, 2020 5:02 PM

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WITH the general election campaign well and truly under way, politicians have been getting a predictable cacophony of abuse on the doorsteps due to the underachieving government we’ve had for the past four years. Fine Gael politicians were getting it in the neck in some quarters for leading a government with a shameful record in the areas of health and social housing during a time when the economy has been performing well, boosted by unexpected extra corporation tax windfalls.
Fianna Fáil politicians are also coming under fire for propping up this minority government for so long. Real opposition parties will have the higher moral ground, but translating that into enough votes to get a majority over the two main centre-right parties is probably too big an ask as all of them are too small and fragmented.
Sinn Féin could hold the balance of power after this year’s general election if leader Mary Lou McDonald can build on the party’s recent by-election win in Dublin in the wake of poor performances in the last presidential, local and European elections, but neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil, at the moment, want to entertain the cross-border party being part of government with them in the south.
The Labour Party has ambitions and some prospects of increasing the number of seats they currently have after taking the brunt of the blame, electorally, for deserting many of their core principles while in government with Fine Gael during the years of austerity between 2011 and 2016. Labour’s promise not to increase the State pension age from 66 to 67 from next year, if they are in a position to influence same, could prove a popular one and, if they can double the seven seats they currently have, they could become kingmakers.
It is difficult to imagine the Social Democrats becoming a significant force in Dáil Éireann as they are building from a very low base. So are the Green Party, who will be encouraged by their electoral successes of last year in Europe, the local elections and one of the Dublin by-elections, but it will be interesting to see how much they can capitalise on all the pro-climate action sentiment that is out there at the moment.
The parties of the left such as Solidarity-People Before Profit and Rise will be hoping to maintain their influence. As for the independents, they are a breed unto themselves and may have some say in which party will lead the next government if the arithmetic is tight.
Health, housing, education, crime and the economy will be the big issues, but this general election could ultimately boil down to a popularity contest between Fine Gael leader Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his Fianna Fáil equivalent Micheál Martin, who does not want to be the first leader of his party never to become Taoiseach.

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