Monday, January 31, 2011

Campaign Diary - Day minus 1

So the day is almost upon us. Posters have been printed and teams are ready to clamber up every lamppost in the country. The phony war is almost over and we can go into overdrive for the next 3 odd weeks trying to get our preferred candidates elected.

In a way, it almost feels anti-climatic. For more than a year now the government has been wobbling from one crisis to the next and at each stage we on the opposition side have been calling for them to go to the country. Now that Cowen is about to do that, after the stage-managed events in Leinster House tomorrow, it feels a little bit flat. We were all hoping that they'd go out with a bang, instead a slow-motion implosion over the last two months has made it difficult to get hyped up. However, once the starting gun is fired all that will go and it will be all hands to the pump.

Of course the campaign has really be underway for the last few months. We have been leafleting and canvassing steadily since the selection convention last May, partly on local issues with the councillors but also as an exercise in getting the name out for the new candidate Kevin Humphries in the Pembroke-Rathmines ward where he may not be as well known. Tonight we have the final pre-election canvass and leaflet drop in Rathmines followed by a branch meeting to rally the troops for the coming weeks.

The thing that is nice about politics in Ireland is that no matter how vitriolic the fighting between the parties gets on the national stage, at a local level things always remain cordial. Groups of canvassers that meet will co-ordinate to not knock at the same doors one after the other. Warnings of rabid dogs (and rabid voters!) are exchanged and pints will be drunk together in the local pubs. We all recognize that we have to live together in the same areas after the election so best off not being a complete jerk.

To all who will be wearing out the shoe leather over the next month, good luck. It's going to be tough but it's ultimately rewarding whether you win or lose.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Election Predictions - Overall

In the four previous posts I have predicted the seats in each of the 43 constituencies around the country. The aggregate totals are as follows

FFFGLabSFGULALeft IndoRight Indo

This leaves the following combinations as potential governments. This is purely on the numbers, not based on ideology or statements of exclusion.
  1. Fine Gael and Labour - 105 seats, majority of 45
  2. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - 95 seats, majority of 25
  3. Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, Left Indos and ULA - 85 seats, majority of 5
  4. Labour, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin - 88 seats, majority of 11
  5. Labour, Fianna Fáil and all Indos, ULA - 88 seats, majority of 11
Option 1 is the outcome that everyone is expecting. Option 2 is the logical end of the civil war but has been ruled out by Fine Gael even if it is a minority FG with support from FF. Option 3 wouldn't last a wet week - all those lefties would have Leo Varadkar going up in a puff of smoke. Options 4 and 5 have been ruled out by Labour and rightly so as FF need to be put into opposition.

Therefore on my predictions we're heading for a substantial FG/L coalition with Enda Kenny as Taoiseach and Eamon Gilmore as Tánaiste with 9 FG and 6 L around the cabinet table with an additional super-junior or attorney general being appointed by Gilmore. There just isn't any other realistic option on the table.

PS - time moves fast in politics at the moment. Since I posted my Donegal predictions it turns out that Blaney will not be running for FF. Oh well!

Election Predictions - Connacht/Ulster

The final set of predictions for the election this time looking west and north.


This is fertile ground for SF where they should be able to capitalize on a weak FF performance and take a second seat. FG, despite not having any deputies standing for re-election also look good to take two with O'Reilly and Humprhies. Smith should hang on to the final seat.
1 FF, 2 FG, 2 SF (FF -2, FG +1, SF +1)

Donegal North-East

Once a FF stronghold, the organization has been falling apart there in the last number of years. There are also strange goings on in FG where they seem to be wedded to the concept of only running one candidate. More than most places in the country, geography is very important here with Inishowen, Fanad and Letterkenny all voting for their own candidates rather than within a party. That said, SF through MacLochlainn will pick up one seat as will Joe McHugh. Assuming that FF don't suicidally try a three candidate strategy they should hold on to Blaney's seat.
1 FF, 1 FG, 1 SF (FF -1, SF +1)

Donegal South-West

The recent by-election here showed the strength of SF in Donegal with Doherty pulling in almost 40% of the vote. While this may not be replicated in the general he will top the poll. Again FG seem to be following a single candidate strategy with McGinley. Mary Coughlan will be hard pushed by Thomas Pringle who might just sneek passed her when Doherty's surplus and McBrearty's votes are distributed.
FG 1, SF 1, Ind 1 (FF -1, Ind +1)

Galway East

Despite having reasonable urban centres in Balinasloe, Claregalway and Tuam, Galway East has only returned FF and FG deputies since the 60s when Clann na Talmhan were still in business. This means it is one of the few places in the country where FF's decline may not be as bad as elsewhere, especially seeing as both current FG TDs are retiring at the election. When the dust settles I don't see any change here unless Declan Ganley runs in which case he may take the second FF seat.
FF 2, FG 2 (nc)

Galway West

Eamon O'Cuiv to hold one seat for FF. FG should take two here but it is not clear which candidates will get them - Healy-Eames and McCormack probably. Nolan should hold on to the Labour seat vacated by the retirement of Michael D Higgins but will be strongly challenged by ex-Labour member Catherine Connolly. The final seat will be between Grealish and FFs Fahey which I expect the former PD to hold on.
FF 1, FG 2, Lab 1, Ind 1 (FF -1, FG +1)


Enda Kenny, despite his best efforts will not be able to win four out of the five seats in Mayo for FG. The retirement of Beverley Flynn ensures the safety of Dara Calleary of FF. The final seat will be between Cowley for Labour and Conway-Walsh for SF which I see SF taking by a very small margin.
1 FF, 3 FG, 1 SF (FF -1, SF +1)

Roscommon/South Leitrim

Likely that the two FG deputies will be returned unscathed. The final seat will be a serious fight between FF, Lab and Luke Flanagan. While it would be amazing to see Ming the Merciless in the Dáil I'm calling this one for Kelly based on his strong track record as an independent before joining Labour.
2 FG, 1 Lab (FF -1, Lab +1)

Sligo/North Leitrim

Scanlon's recent retreat back into FF should (paradoxically) help him retain his seat. FG will most likely take the other two with McLoughlin doing well in Sligo town. Expect this to become more exciting if Declan Bree decides to run for ULA or Marian Harkin makes a surprise comeback.
1 FF, 2 FG (FF -1, FG +1)

Overall Figures

Left Indo1
Right Indo1

Election Predictions - Munster

Part 3 of the election predictions, this time looking at Munster.


Traditionally quite a conservative constituency, Clare will not throw up any great surprises this time out either. Kileen's retirement has ensured Timmy Dooley's survival and both FG TDs will be returned. The final seat will feature former FF and now Independent James Breen taking on Labour's Michael McNamara but there won't be a Bhamjee-2 and Breen will retake his seat.
1 FF, 2 FG, 1 Ind (FF -1, Ind +1)

Cork East

Another constituency where FF face a complete wipeout. Sherlock and Stanton to be returned with Barry and Mulvihill seeing off sitting TD Michael Ahern and Ned's replacement Kevin O'Keefe.
2 FG, 2 Lab (FF -2, FG +1, Lab +1)

Cork North Central

An interesting fight here where rural and urban collide. The departure Noel O'Flynn as part of the FF seat saving strategy certainly improves the chances of Kelleher holding on. Labour look good for two with a balanced ticket of Lynch and Gilroy and FG should also successfully replace Bernard Allen. However, don't be surprised to see both ULA and SF poll relatively well and challenge for one of the Labour seats if Lynch and Gilroy don't manage their vote properly.
1 FF, 1 FG, 2 Lab (FF -1, Lab +1)

Cork North West

*YAWN*. Historically the most boring constituency in the country. Despite Ballincollig recently being moved into CNW, it is still a huge rural constituency where the Civil War parties will continue their dominance.
1 FF, 2 FG (FF -1, FG +1)

Cork South Central

From boring to very exciting. With Micheal Martin now the leader of FF his seat should be safe as will Ciaran Lynch due to his phenomenal work rate. FG should be good for two seats but which of their three candidates will lose out? I'd say Buttimer may replace Clune who will fight with Desmond of Labour for the final seat. Dan Boyle will yet again poll relatively strongly but fail to win a seat and his transfers will push Desmond over the line. Geography will play a strong role in this constituency between the town and harbour candidates.
1 FF, 2 FG, 2 Lab (FF -1, Lab +1)

Cork South West

Like its northern neighbour CSW is a fairly boring constituency with 2 FG and 1 FF returned for almost all elections since the 80s. Despite both sitting deputies retiring FG should be able to continue their fine tradition here. The interesting bit will be if Labour can win a seat that they haven't held in 30 years but my gut feeling is that FF should hold on through one of their candidates. Also interesting to note the Green candidate is Jennifer Sleeman who tried to organize the boycott of mass last Autumn.
1 FF, 2 FG (NC)

Kerry North/West Limerick

With the return of a Spring to the ballot paper for Labour and the addition of some FG friendly territory from Limerick things are not looking good for FF in this area. Ferris for SF should see off McEllistrim for the final seat.
1 FG, 1 Lab, 1 SF (FF -1, Lab +1)

Kerry South

At the time of John O'Donoghue's resignation I made a small charity bet with someone that he would top the poll. Now it looks like my money will be going to help some needy children. The Healy-Rae machine is still strong in the next generation and Jackie's last minute concessions to help pass the Finance Bill won't have hurt one bit. Sheahan safe for FG and Moloney will pass the transfer repellent Bull to grab the last seat. Could we see Kerry as a completely FF free zone?
1 FG, 1 Lab, 1 Ind (FF -1, Lab +1)


The rural part of the county, this three seater will see Finucane picking off one of the sitting FF deputies with Collins likely to survive due to the party machine being strongly behind him.
1 FF, 2 FG (FF -1, FG +1)

Limerick City

The city has lost a seat in the redrawing of the boundaries. This spells an end to two seats for FF with Peter Power to be clobbered by O'Dea's amazing vote gathering ability. Beyond that it is hard to see any further lineup changes despite Noonan's increased profile (no chance of three seats!) and SF's Quinlivan's association with the O'Dea resignation.
1 FF, 2 FG, 1 Lab (FF -1)

Tipperary North

This is Lowry country and yet again the independent will top the poll. FG to hold Coonan's seat and Kelly will return from Europe and demolish Hoctor's base in Nenagh to take the third seat.
1 FG, 1 Lab, 1 Ind (FF -1, Lab +1)

Tipperary South

Tom Hayes will easily hold his seat. Mattie McGrath will take the FF Ind seat and Healy will just about see off Prendergast for the single left seat unless the Gilmore Gale picks up during the campaign.
1 FG, 1 ULA, 1 Ind (FF -2, ULA +1, Ind +1)


Brian O'Shea's retirement and a strong push from left-wing independent John Halligan will make it almost impossible for Labour to increase from one to two seats. Instead FG will capitalize on the departure of Martin Cullen and take a second seat through Paudie Coffey. Kenneally will hold on for FF and lets say Ciara Conway takes the Labour seat (but I have no good reason for picking her over her running mate).
1 FF, 2 FG, 1 Lab (FF -1, FG +1)

Overall Figures

Right Indo4

Election Predictions - Leinster

Part 2 of the election predictions, this time looking at Leinster outside of Dublin. (Edit: I left out Wicklow in my initial posting - sorry!!)


McGuiness' maverick role will help return two FF seats bucking the national trend. FG will finally get their vote strategy right and also win the second seat with Anne Phelan picking off the Greens only rural seat.
2 FF, 2 FG, 1 Lab (FF -1, FG +1, Lab +1, G -1)

Kildare North

Effectively an extension of Dublin with many commuter towns, the FF vote will collapse here with both seats lost, one to the 2nd Labour candidate and the other to independent Catherine Murphy.
1 FG, 2 Lab, 1 Ind (FF -2, Lab +1, Ind +1)

Kildare South

Fine Gael will win back the seat that Alan Dukes used to hold at the expense of FF's O'Fearghail. Otherwise no change.
1 FF, 1 FG, 1 Lab (FF -1, FG +1)


The big issue here is whether Brian Cowen will run or not. Assuming he does then FF should hold on to two of their three seats. With Enright retiring a new FG face will turn up in Leinster House along with a Sinn Féin seat for Brian Stanley.
2 FF, 2 FG, 1 SF (FF -1, SF +1)


The Mae Sexton saga makes this an interesting constituency to keep an eye on. Penrose will top the poll and FG will manage their vote to get McFadden and Bannon elected. The final seat will feature FF scrapping with Sexton but the combined votes of O'Rourke and Kelly will see one of them home.
1 FF, 2 FG, 1 Lab (FF -1, FG +1)


Ahern's retirement and Adams' arrival has spiced up Louth a bit more than usual. Blogged about it a while back but things have moved on since then. Now looks like no FF will be elected but Kirk will be returned as Ceann Comhairle. Two FG and Nash for Labour to join Gerry as the Louth representatives.
1 FF, 2 FG, 1 Lab, 1 SF (FF -1, FG +1, Lab +1)

Meath East

Dominic Hannigan to take one of the two current FF seats in more of the commuter-belt FF meltdown.
1 FF, 1 FG, 1 Lab (FF -1, Lab +1)

Meath West

English to top the poll for FG in the absence of Dempsey. Tobin to take one of the remaining seats for SF and then Labour, FF and second FG to duke it out for the final seat. Seems likely that Brady will hang on due to benefit of incumbency rather than being much of a TD.
1 FF, 1 FG, 1 SF (FF -1, SF +1)


Howlin and both FG seats are safe. After that there will be one FF seat, probably Sean Connick. The final seat will go to the wire between FG, Lab and SF which I'm going to give to SF.
1 FF, 2 FG, 1 Lab, 1 SF (FF -1, SF +1)


Both FG and Labour are running a three candidate strategy to try and cover all the bases in this large constituency. Both should return two seats. FF's demise in the communter belt will continue with ex-FFer Behan holding off Dick Roche's challenge to take the remaining seat.
2 FG, 2 Lab, 1 Ind (FF -2, Lab +1, Ind +1)

Overall Figures

Left Indo1

Election Predictions - Dublin

With the Dáil about to be dissolved it is time to put my proverbial money where my mouth is and do a constituency by constituency guess at the election results. These will be split over 4 posts - Dublin, Leinster, Munster and Connacht/Ulster and finally a summary post with totals, predicted coalition and potential ministers. As with all predictions, take with a pinch of salt. So here we go!

Dublin Central

With Bertie retiring there are three sitting TDs looking for re-election. Joe Costello should take the 1st seat. After that things are less clear. There is definitely another left leaning seat there and one for either FF/FG. The final seat I see going left as there won't be enough transfers to get the other FF/FG candidate elected. I'll put Maureen O'Sullivan in as #2, Mary Fitzpatrick as #3 and Mary-Lou McDonald to keep Paschal Donohoe looking for Enda to keep a space for him in the Seanad.
1 FF, 1 Lab, 1 SF, 1 Ind (FF -1, SF +1)

Dublin Mid West

In Mary Harney's old stomping ground Joanna Tuffy may well be the only sitting TD returned. With the FF and PD tide gone out, Frances Fitzgerald and Derek Keating should mop up those rightish, middle class votes. While Paul Gogarty will not be elected, his transfers will decide it between Robert Dowds and Eoin O'Broin for the final seat which I'm going to call for Dowds.
2 FG, 2 Lab (FF -1, FG +2, Lab +1, G -1, Ind -1)

Dublin North

Splitting Swords in two has to be the stupidest thing the electoral boundary commission did in their last review. That said this is another area where the FF vote will collapse and neither of the sitting TDs will be returned. James Reilly and Brendan Ryan will head the field. Clare Daly of the Socialists under the ULA banner will poll strongly and take a seat and I expect Trevor Sargent to hang on for a rare positive story for the Greens.
1 FG, 1 Lab, 1 G, 1 ULA (FF -2, Lab +1, ULA +1)

Dublin North Central

One of the easier constituencies to predict, Seán Haughey will lose his seat to Aodhan O'Riordan with the others holding firm. Richard Bruton's surplus won't be very big at all as the anti-Enda feeling in Dublin will stop Naoise O'Muirí being at the races.
1 FG, 1 Lab, 1 Ind (FF -1, Lab +1)

Dublin North East

Tommy Broughan and Terence Flanagan should be safely home here. The final seat will depend on whether Larry O'Toole managed to hang on to the core SF team when Killian Forde moved to Labour. I'm going to give the seat the Seán Kenny at the moment but it will be very tight.
1 FG, 2 Lab (FF -1, Lab +1)

Dublin North West

The final three seater in the North of the city. With Noel Ahern retiring Pat Carey's chances of hanging on to his seat have been given a major boost. It seems insane for FG to be running two candidates and would seem to rule them out of wining a seat. Róisín Shortall will top the poll but will not have enough to take in a running mate leaving Dessie Ellis of SF to take the final seat without getting near the quota.
1 FF, 1 Lab, 1 SF (FF -1, SF +1)

Dublin South

Sprawling, liberal and volatile, Dublin South is always entertaining especially with Shane Ross and Peter Matthews now joining the fray. FG should be good for two seats despite the George Lee debacle but Ross has killed off any chance of a third seat for them. Labour, running the same ticket as last time, will have Alex White comfortably elected. The final seat will be a battle royale between Maria Corrigan, Aidan Cullhane and Eamon Ryan and will be decided by a handful of votes. If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on Corrigan holding on.
1 FF, 2 FG, 1 Lab, 1 Ind (FF -1, Lab +1, G -1, Ind +1)

Dublin South Central

The most left leaning constituency in the country, this will not be pleasant for FF or much better for FG unless a heavy-weight parachute (an oxymoron if ever there was) is found. Labour will definitely take two, SF will hold. Joan Collins of the ULA will win a seat and if Labour can manage their vote successfully, transfers from FG and FF should see them pick up the final seat.
3 Lab, 1 SF, 1 ULA (FF -2, FG -1, Lab +2, ULA +1)

Dublin South East

This is where I vote and I've blogged about it before calling it Quinn, Humphries, Creighton and Andrews. Since then I have seen nothing that has changed my mind about the result.
1 FF, 1 FG, 2 Lab (Lab +1, G -1)

Dublin South West

Pat Rabbitte to top the poll with Brian Hayes doing well in the Templeogue end of the constituency. SF's Sean Crowe will also take a seat leaving the final spot for the two incumbent FF and Eamonn Maloney of Labour to fight over. Based on the current low polling of FF I'd say Maloney will take it.
1 FG, 2 Lab, 1 SF (FF -2, Lab +1, SF +1)

Dublin West

Up from a three to a four seater, before the FF leadership debacle this would have been the easiest constituency in the country to predict with the three sitting TDs returned along with Joe Higgins for the ULA. However, after Lenihan's poor showing in the leadership battle, the door is now open for Pat Nulty to challenge for the final seat. However, I don't see it leading to a second seat for Labour.
1 FF, 1 FG, 1 Lab, 1 ULA (ULA +1)

Dun Laoghaire

Down from five to four seats, this is pretty much the exact opposite of Dublin West - it could go any direction. Assuming both FF TDs stay on the ballot paper, Gilmore will top the poll. Sean Barrett will take the FG seat and between them the FFers should have a quota which will see Hanafin elected when Andrews is eliminated. Gilmore's surplus should bump Ivana Bacik alongside Richard Boyd-Barrett and so Cuffe's votes will decide the final seat which I'm giving to Bacik.
1 FF, 1 FG, 2 Lab (FF -1, Lab +1, G -1)

Overall Figures

Left Indo2
Right Indo1

Monday, January 24, 2011

Confidence versus Finance

I've been abroad for a few days and have missed out on so much politics it's not funny. Between Brian Cowen resigning and then the Greens leaving government I should vow to never leave the country again. Then again, if my absence in any small way helped bring about these events I would have no problem in spending another extended weekend in Paris. (This might be a case of the correlation does not imply causation fallacy.)

The big thing this evening is the agreed timetable for the finance bill and an early election, now probably 25th February. This comes at the expense of Labour giving up on their motion of no confidence and all other Dáil business being suspended so the bill will be sent to the Seanad on Friday. Any amendments from the upper house will be passed either in an emergency Dáil session on Saturday or else first thing on Tuesday week before Cowen finally heads up to the Áras to dissolve the Dáil and officially start the election race.

It is important to note that while Fine Gael and Labour are agreeing to this timetable, neither party will be voting in favour of the provisions of the bill. This role will strictly be reserved for the Greens and the pair of independent TDs along with the remains of Fianna Fáil. If the motion of no confidence was debated tomorrow and Wednesday, it would be defeated as the Greens have said they want the finance bill passed. This would drag out the life of the Dáil for another few weeks up, on the 11th March election date timetable.

Nothing in the finance bill cannot be reversed or modified by the incoming government. In my view this compromise is better than another few weeks of farce in the Dáil allowing Fianna Fáil's new leader to settle in and get up a head of steam before the election. This timescale brings about an election as soon as possible and while it does leave a bit of a nasty taste to have this finance bill passed, the alternative is far, far worse.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Losing Ministers

So much for the motion of confidence in Brian Cowen stabilizing the country. Following on from Micheál Martin's resignation after his failed coup, the poor Taoiseach has lost another five of his ministers in the last day. There are now six departments with Cowen as acting minister to go along with his responsibilities as Taoiseach.

Of the remaining ministers it seems unlikely that Lenihan or Coughlan will depart nor the Green duo. Mary Hanafin, despite coming out against Cowen has hung on in Tourism and I don't see her bailing either. Dev Óg is needed to keep the FF flag flying in the west. This just leaves Brendan Smith who could go either way and Pat Carey who due to his allegiances to Hanafin may just stick it out despite being in serious danger of loosing his seat in Dublin North West.

Promoting backbenchers or current junior ministers to these positions would be the final act of cynicism of this Government. While they won't qualify for pensions for ministerial service, it is farcical to suggest that over a 3 month period (1 until the election, 1 during the campaign and 1 in caretaker mode until the new government is installed) these people could reform and rejuvenate their departments. Spreading the load amongst the remaining ministers is the only viable option.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Confidence tricks

This afternoon Labour announced that they were putting down a motion of no confidence in the government in their private members time on 25/26 of the month. This comes a few days after the Sinn Féin led Technical Group's motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach which would not be on the order of business until some time in March. This is a significant move for several reasons.

Firstly, in the normal course of events, a Government takes the motion on their time in the house, puts an amendment that turns it into a vote of confidence and then passes that. It does it as quickly as possible to stop the story from lingering on for ages. However, the Chief Whip, John Curran, has indicated that the motion will not be taken until Labour's private members time. This strongly suggests that he doesn't think he has the numbers to successfully amend the motion from a no confidence to confidence one.

Bear in mind that no matter what happens in the next week or so there will be an election in March or early April as the Greens are leaving once the Finance Bill is passed. There is a school of thought that the motion should have been held in reserve until the Finance Bill is passed and that would either force the Greens to leave before the Climate and Donations bills get passed or renege on their promise to depart. Even if they didn't leave the three by-elections have been promised for the 1st quarter 2011 anyway and once they have been won by opposition parties (1 each for FG, L and SF probably) the game is up.

The pressure is now heaped on the potential Fianna Fáil rebels as they have to decide soon what their course of action is. I am not sure what the procedures are for electing a new leader in FF but I'm assuming there is a period of time for nominations while the existing deputy leader takes charge in a temporary capacity. Now, as I said yesterday I actually don't care who is in charge of FF, but the timing of the coup and how it plays out makes for entertaining viewing. There are a few ways the next little while can play out. If I have missed some please post them in the comments section.

  • Cowen goes up to the Áras over the weekend and dissolves the Dáil and we have a general election on 11th February or so. FF couldn't oust him in the middle of the campaign so Cowen would lead them into the election.
  • FF circle the wagons, leave Cowen intact, and survive the motion. This forces the backbenchers such as Chris Andrews and John McGuinness, who have recently been distancing themselves from Government, to publicly back the Taoiseach.
  • The heave proceeds but fails to oust Cowen. The Brutus character(s) (Martin, Hanafin or Lenihan) has to resign from Cabinet and this leaves a very damaged FF heading into the election. It also makes surviving the no confidence motion more difficult as the rebels may not vote to save Cowen.
  • The heave succeeds and Coughlan becomes acting leader. Based on Lowry and JHR's statements about not supporting another FF Taoiseach, Cowen has to stay in the job. The motion of confidence then requires FF TDs who voted against Cowen being in charge of their party to vote in favour of him running the country.
  • The heave succeeds and Cowen then heads to the Áras. The new leader is elected at the end of the first week of the election campaign and barely has time to prepare for the TV debates.

None of these outcomes are particularly good for the government parties and some are disastrous. On the other hand, they are all pretty positive for the opposition parties, especially Labour, who have to go on the offensive against both FG and SF to avoid being squeezed from both left and right. Therefore it comes as no surprise that Fine Gael have come out saying that this motion was badly timed and ill-advised. One only has to think back to the summer to see FG's track record on badly timed confidence motions though. During the run up to the motion of no confidence Richard Bruton made his ill-fated move against Enda Kenny. It seems unlikely that Joan Burton is going to launch a heave against Eamon Gilmore over the weekend but you never know - stranger things have happened.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fianna who cares

For some bizarre reason every commentator, every blogger and every tweeter seems to be up in arms about the possible heave in Fianna Fáil. Sure, a change at the top in FF will precipitate an election perhaps a few weeks earlier than expected but beyond that I don't get why people care so much. FF are a busted flush and no changing of the guard will save them in the election.

Much is made about how the Cowen and Coughlan image will damage various FF candidates chances of being re-elected. Are we really to believe that a party with Dara Calleary and Barry Andrews at the controls will suddenly have a massive increase in popularity? Do they really think the public are that forgetful? I don't care who leads FF, all I care about is that they are booted from office and their lackeys are removed from all the quangos.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

International edition

It's been a while since I seriously commented on anything international so here's a few things that have been crossing my mind in the last few days.


Today Sudan is holding a referendum that will split the country into two parts if passed. The mainly Christian and smaller (in area and population) region wants to secede from the mainly Muslim and larger north. Of course the major issue with the split is that the southern region has almost all of Sudan's oil reserves and to a lesser extent control of the waters (limited that they are) of the White Nile. It is also not exactly clear where the border between the two Sudan's will be if the split happens. Migrant farming groups move around with their flocks within the border region and the placing of a fixed border with fencing could lead to significant issues.


Over Stateside, the gun attack in Tuscon where 6 were left dead and a Congresswoman was left in a critical condition is an appalling story. Since I only really follow US news through the Daily Show these days I can't really comment on whether this is a Sarah Palin/Glen Beck induced event or just a random crazy killing. However, to my mind at least, it shows that the US is a dangerous place for those involved in the political process at the moment. Tensions are high and need to be dialed back about a dozen notches for everyone's sake.


It has been just a year since the massive earthquake in Haiti that killed several hundred thousand people and left millions homeless. Unfortunately the news from that part of the world is that many are still in dire straits with poor shelter and lack of basic amenities. I guess like the 2004 Tsunami and the 2008 Myanmar Typhoon, once the immediate catastrophe has finished, the rest of the world moves on and leaves the inhabitants to pick up the pieces.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I am not Nostradamus

In today's Irish Times there is a pretty emphatic statement on a topic I discussed last February. Mary Hanafin and Barry Andrews will both be staying put in Dún Laoghaire for the General Election.

The piece does have a few uncharacteristic jabs from Hanafin at both Andrews and PBP's Richard Boyd-Barrett, hinting that since the Andrews' come from Goatstown in Dublin South that perhaps Barry should have moved and that local issues like the 46A bus route are not going to be important. What is most interesting in the article is the way both Fine Gael and Labour are completely ignored. One wonders if Hanafin is already calling it 3 seats between FG and L with the 4th being a scrap between the two FF and PBP.

Seems my powers of prediction have failed me. I shudder to think how many of my other predictions will come wrong in the next few months!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dail, heal thyself!

One of the big talking points in the last month, apart from the weather, the date of the election, Jean Byrne's outfits (that might be covered by the first topic), Santa and the IMF/EU has been the institution of the Seanad. About 18 months ago, Enda Kenny went on what was seen as a bit of a solo run when he announced that FG policy was to get rid of the second chamber. More recently the Seanad has had a rough time with the Callely shenanigans, not to mention the continued existence of Donie Cassidy's political career. Then over the festive period, Labour joined the ranks of the dissatisfied calling time on the Seanad followed up by Fianna Fáil's suggestion that a referendum to disband could be held at the same time as the General Election.

Personally, I am not in favour of the drastic step of turning Ireland into a unicameral state. I feel we would be better off reforming the Seanad into a modern, fit for purpose institution as part of a larger set of reforms of the entire political system. The Seanad, even with all its flaws, still produces more considered debate than the Dáil with all its political point scoring and restrictive standing orders ever could.

The composition of the Seanad is usually the first objection to its continued existance. The 6 university senators are seen as the representatives of an elite, the 43 senators elected by the city and county councillors are seen as wannabe or failed TDs and the less said about the 11 appointees the better. Instead I would propose a fixed term Seanad of 5 years with elections held the same time as the local and European elections. 48 senators would be elected on a nationwide poll with constituencies the same as the Europeans with 4 constituencies of 12 seats. The timing of this election would alleviate the problem of rejected TDs retiring to the Seanad for a term. You could also add rules that any candidate for the Seanad elections could not run for the Europeans to avoid the problem of some candidates having a much higher profile in the campaign and also forbid current Senators from running for the Dáil without resigning their seat first.

The remaining 12 would remain as appointees but only with the unanimous agreement of the leaders of the parties and technical groups in the Dáil. This would allow representation of minorities, immigrants and emigrants, the North and other groups like the current vocational panels are meant to. The unanimity would go a long way to avoid political appointees. This newly constituted Seanad would then have an extended remit to examine EU directives that require legislation here, be a driver for further political and social reform and act as a proper check on the power of the Government. To this end the restrictions in Article 21 on Money Bills would need to be removed.

One must also bear in mind what the abolition of the Seanad actually means in practice. Without a second chamber, due to the extremely strict whipping in the Dáil, the Government could effectively push through any legislation it wanted in any timeframe without needing to have an open debate. Through strict control on Dáil sessions, management of committees and judicious use of the guillotine, the government of the day would effectively have free reign apart from the constitutional role given to the President. It is interesting to note that a major revamping of Dáil procedures and standing orders has not accompanied any abolitionist's plan. The proposals from FG and now Labour are nothing more than a naked power grab by the lower chamber feeding on the public disgust with politics in general at the moment.

The other crazy part of this story is the proposed timetable being suggested by Fianna Fáil of holding the referendum on the same day as the General Election. The Seanad is one of the key institutions of the State and appears in many articles in the Constitution as well as numerous pieces of legislation. Considering how difficult it has been to come up with the wording for the Children's Rights amendment, not to mention how it seems impossible to get rid of the Blasphemy clause in the Constitution, it seems implausible that legislation could be prepared in the short timescale that would not end up making a mess of things, especially when the Government claim to be wholly focused on the Finance and Welfare bills.

Yes, the entire political system needs reform from accountable local government all the way up to the role of the President but we need to take a holistic approach. Piecemeal reform will get us nowhere and unilaterally dumping the Seanad as some sort of populist, opportunistic token at reform is one of the worst possible approaches to take.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Going Forward in 2011

New Year means resolutions and predictions, most of which will be abandoned by the middle of January. So in keeping with the spirit of the season here are my brief guesses on the next year.

General Election

The General Election will be some time in March. FF won't do as badly as polls suggest, Labour not as well with the end result around FG 63, FF 45, Lab 38, SF 10, Others 10 leading to a substantial majority for FG/Lab.

Presidential Election

David Norris will manage to get 4 councils to support his nomination but his transfers will help Michael D Higgins to just take the Áras from FG.

The Economy

The rising tide of European economies will drag Ireland back into low growth but without much in the way of job creation.

The North

Business as usual heading into the Assembly elections with SF looking to become the largest party and hold the 1st Minister position but being pipped at the post by DUP. Other Unionists and SDLP fail to make ground.


The Dublin Mayor elections will not happen and the greater Dublin area will continue to suffer due to lack of joined up thinking. Metro North and the Interconnector will continue to be postponed but the Incinerator will push ahead.


Paddy Prendergast to be elected Provost with a fairly sizeable victory with no outside candidate to come even close. Well founded mutterings of closed shop to be heard.


Leinster to win the HEC and Magners League, Ireland to get to the Semis of the Rugby World Cup, Bohs to find a sugar-daddy to bail them out, Ireland to loose in a Euro-2012 playoff, Down to beat Kerry for Sam, Cork to retain McCarthy.


I'll keep blogging and tweeting much to the annoyance of my missus. In 365 days I'll come back and see how well my crystal ball was working. Happy New Year to all!!