BUG-EYED, we’ve embarked on the New Year path, one that’s infested with snakes, imperilled by the unpredictable, the unforeseen, and the not bargained for. In other words, we await with trepidation the announcement that nice Mr Kenny will release a monster from the infernal regions: a General Election on Friday, February 26th!
‘Whaa! What’s that he said?’ an agitated man in Dinty’s gasps, ‘I’ll have to inform Jim Daly immediately. The poor man never gets to know anything about things like that.’
But, as far as Labour is concerned, the February 26th date might just be what the party needed to save its bacon. Its ‘conference’ or Ard Fheis commences on January 30th, whereas the Blueshirt Ard Fheis is slotted in for the earlier dates of January 22nd and 23rd.
And, believe it or not, fears were circulating that the nice Mr Kenny, his head turned by flattering comments, would spring the election on the country before the Cloth Cap Brigade had time to organise its dwindling band of brothers.
Indeed, the very suggestion of a snap election terrified what’s left of Labour: ‘He’d never do that,’ spluttered a supporter, a political species now almost as rare in West Cork as an effeminate tomcat. ‘The Taoiseach wouldn’t dare pull the plug on us. Besides we have an implicit agreement that there’ll be no move on an election until well after our Ard Fheis.’
To which our man in Dinty’s curtly replied: ‘That’s by no means locked down, boy. The date is the Taoiseach’s decision, and his alone.’
And then, some days later, came this cryptic phone call from our local spy, Clonakilty’s version of the Washington Post’s tip-off man, ‘Deep Throat’: ‘Listen Mr Archon, the most likely election date is Friday, February 26th. You didn’t hear it from me. Oh, and Labour has its knickers in a knot!’
So now you know, from the horse’s mouth, sort of. And you read it here!
More FG government?
And so to speculation! Are we in for more inevitable destruction and ruin with another Blueshirt-led government? And although the facts may stick the craw, the polls are indicating that Fine Gael is readying itself for round two.
The intriguing question is: who will partner Fine Gael in government? According to Adrian Kavanagh’s analysis of the most recent poll, the popularity ratings of Fine Gael (32%) Sinn Féin (19%), Fianna Fáil (17%) Labour (9%) and Independents and Others (23%) would return the following to the Dáil: Fine Gael 64 TDs, Sinn Féin 29, Fianna Fáil 26, Labour 10, Independents and Others 29.
The target for forming a government is 80 seats and the political combinations for arriving at the magic number are intriguing: a FF-FG coalition is one such rarity. Another is that of a FG-Labour arrangement with a large dose of ‘safe’ Independents thrown in, including Michael Lowry – and if that doesn’t have you running for the sick-bucket, nothing will!
Or what about this one? In view of the fact that Sinn Féin has pulled ahead of Fianna Fáil as the country’s biggest opposition party (to Martin’s eternal shame!), is a left-of-centre coalition now on the cards; one that’s led by Sinn Féin, and involving FF, Labour, the Social Democrats and Independents?
Mickey, influenced by an eccentric commentator in the Sunday Independent, has said that under no circumstances would he go into government with Sinn Féin. But what are his options? Allow the Soldiers of Destiny be subsumed by Blueshirts or go for a ragbag coalition with the likes of Shane Ross or the depressing Lucinda Creighton?
Besides, several of the FF mandarin class see no problem doing a deal with SF, and have said so. If that means dispatching Mickey, well, bring on the axe-man, they seem to be saying, even if for the moment the message is transmitted sotto voce. And not too many tears would be shed for Mickey.
However much Martin might want us to overlook his past, his political legacy is toxic. His long association with Don Berto and henchmen – most of who have already done the decent and slouched off the political stage – is the reason for that.
Worse still, in the opinion of ‘reformed’ Fianna Fáil, Mickey as a leader following in the footsteps of De Valera, Lynch and Lemass has turned out to be an absolute flop. The most damning indictment for which he stands accused is his failure to rebuild the party – a fact graphically illustrated in the most recent poll that put Fianna Fáil at just 17%.
Which is the exact level of support Fianna Fáil had in its worst ever election in 2011. To put matters another way, in the years that he’s led the party, Mickey has taken it nowhere!
And, if poor Mickey is guilty of delusional politics, spare a thought for Joan Burton, Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party. In recent weeks, she’s been trumpeting the ‘high probability’ of Labour returning in force.
In the most recent poll, support for Labour rose by 2%. Translated into seats, the slight percentage increase would return 10 deputies to the Dáil. But the plain fact of the matter is that the party, currently with 33 TDs, is facing a general election massacre and Labour will do well if it wins seven seats.
In the meantime, Madame Burton is perceived as doomed, a gonner. Predictions are rife that she’ll fail to be re-elected, so disgusted are punters at her readiness during the past four years to parrot the Fine Gael line.
Indeed she’s facing a rather unpleasant political future in her role as the leader of a party: rejected by the people she lives among, and certain to be forgotten after ten minutes although not by those forced to endure the economic miseries she forced upon them.
And, here’s another blow to Labour’s puffed up notions of grandeur. If the party fails to win seven seats in the next Dáil, it could mean Labourites would be denied full speaking rights and would have to join the Dáil’s Technical Group, namely the oddballs that time forgot.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Irish politics were as simple as those in the United States? How pleasant life would be for politicos such as Our Mickey and Madame Burton if their constituents displayed the same absence of sophistication and critical judgement as those who support Donald Trump?
Last week a report released by Public Policy Polling on voter support for Republican candidates revealed that 30% of voters said they supported bombing Agrabah. Nobody who answered the poll had a clue what or where Agrabah was but since it sounded foreign, heck, it was worth a bomb or two.
Agrabah is the make-believe city in the popular Disney film Aladdin!