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COLM TOBIN: Turbulent times for Mary Lou so how will Sinn Féin fare in general election?

June 17th, 2024 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

COLM TOBIN: Turbulent times for Mary Lou so how will Sinn Féin fare in general election? Image

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I HAVE my business travel packing skills down to a fine art and it was no exception this week as I attempted to get all my luggage into a small carry-on bag and a 10kg free check-in bag for a work trip to France.

I have been helped of late by a set of packing cubes that I bought online and which allow me to tightly pack in clothes into zipped bags which has the effect of compressing them down to a smaller size. This minimises instances of me kneeling on an overpacked suitcase while trying to wrestle the zip around each corner, which is frankly a sight nobody needs to see.

But the most important component to a successful packing experience is in choosing just the right amount of items, to predict the five-day trip ahead of time, so I’m not stuffing in jumpers I won’t need or, more importantly, running out of underwear a day early with catastrophic, potentially career-ending results.

Choosing the right amount of shirts, pants, shorts, t-shirts, underwear and socks is a highly scientific affair and you have to take into account the weather, the amount of walking you may have to do between meeting venues, and the amount of social events where you have to look vaguely presentable.

In the animation world, this can mean a pair of flip flops and a top hat, but as I run a business and have some dignity, I prefer to stay smart-casual.

An evening jacket is required, which can be worn over a t-shirt so you’re not getting too corporate and one pair of reliable shoes that are comfortable but can work at a wine reception are vital. Of course, a small raincoat is usually a must for an Irishman used to disappointment, but I’ve got a tiny one that can be folded down to the size of about an atom to minimise space.

So far so good, I seem to have the optimum amount of clothing left for the week ahead, but it’s only after years of making mistakes I have reached this point of Peak Packing.

SF just overshot the runway!

If only poor old Sinn Féin could get a handle on their numbers. It seems they either run far too many candidates or far too few, and this election was a shocker for them with the centrist parties enjoying a whopper result by any standards.

It looks like Sinn Féin overshot the runway this time, after undershooting it in the previous general election. Mary Lou badly needs to get herself a copy of Goldilocks and The Three Bears.

Of course, Sinn Féin could have taken a far harder line on immigration, were they more cynical, and they have repeatedly refused to play this card, which is enormously to their credit. But as a result, everyone ate the Shinners’ dinner and they seem to be back at square one again.

What happens when it comes to the general election is harder to call, with a far higher turnout expected, and the same simmering discontent at play.

By and large, you get the sense that the centre ground in Ireland has held and that people took a look at the wider world around us and have resorted to the safe and to the proven. For now.

But a lot can happen before the next general election, which Taoiseach Simon Harris must be sorely tempted to call.

Le Pen mightier than discord?

Where I’m sitting now in Annecy, the ‘Pearl of the French Alps’, the news is a little more sobering after the elections here.

With the National Rally of Marine Le Pen and her protégé Jordan Bardella winning 31.37% of the vote to 14.6% for the coalition led by Macron’s Renaissance party, it seems the French public are spoiling for a fight with the establishment.

And in a moment of grand political gambling, Macron has called their bluff by announcing a snap election.

Either the public are blowing off steam by voting for the far right, or more scary and fundamental problems are afoot in France. We’ll see very soon which way the wind is blowing.

Of course, there are other possible reasons for Macron calling the election now. The presidential elections are another three years away and perhaps giving the National Rally a go in government, willing them to fail, would counteract Marine Le Pen getting in as president at that stage.

More broadly speaking, across Europe, the far right incursion seems to be less pronounced, apart from worrying developments in Germany.

For now, even in the disparate countries of the EU, the centre seems to be holding.

The nuclear option returns

I was intrigued to read reports during the week that the Irish Academy of Engineering is arguing for Ireland to invest in small modular nuclear reactors.

If the roll-out of massive solar and wind infrastructure proves too costly because of intermittent outages, or if green hydrogen does not turn out to be a viable backup, then nuclear may be the only way to bridge the gap in order for us to reach net zero by 2050.

Small nuclear reactors, or SMRs as they are called, are much cheaper than conventional nuclear plants and quicker to establish.

Whatever about the environmental arguments, best of luck getting planning for those, lads. It’s hard enough to get an apartment block up in Dun Laoghaire these days.

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