The real nightmare for Fianna Fail at the next general election is not losing power, it’s not even whether they end up losing 20 or even 30 seats. It is that the wrong people will end up retaining their seats and the right people lose out. By right and wrong, I mean people best equipped to undertake the necessary work to revive the party and to ensure that they make a decent fist of opposition, something they’ve only had to do for two and half years in the last 23 (this could be a quarter of a century by the time the election comes around) or so.
This isn’t about who I like in FF but about who is more able to articulate a position that might find resonance with the nation faced with a FG and Labour government.
Take Mayo as one example, if Bev ends up saving her seat at the expense of Dara Calleary does anyone realistically think that FF can put her on the front bench as one of the main people to do the hard slog of re-building the party? The same is the case in Meath East were Thomas Byrne to lose out to Mary “Wednesday” Wallace. Or where Jim McDaid ends up as the sole FF rep in Donegal North West, or if FF in a fit of desperation ran Pat the Cope yet again in DSW and he held a seat but in doing so ensured the departure of Mary Coughlan. It’s not merely a matter of how much they lose but who they lose. That as anyone in FG will tell you made the path from 2002 down and outs to 2007 contenders all that much harder
And there are many others, just a few of which I’ve listed below
Cork North Central – Noel O’Flynn instead of Billy Kelleher
Kildare North – Michael Fitzpatrick instead of Aine Brady
Dublin North West – Noel Ahern instead of Pat Carey
Dublin South Central – Michael Mulcahy instead of Sean Ardagh
Cork North West – Michael Moynihan instead of Batt O’Keeffe
Dublin North – Michael Kennedy instead of Daire ?O’Brien
Wexford – John Brown instead of Sean Connick
Meath West – Johnny Brady instead of Noel Dempsey
and there are more. Just imagine that it’s the last week of the campaign and FF are still polling consistently under 30% and they finally know they are in the territory of a FG in 2002 style bloodbath, who in the party hierarchy is going to be in a position to make the hard calls on behalf of the party and put the resources behind the ones they will need to recover. FG needed someone to do that in 2002 and it didn’t happen and the effect was that the party wasn’t able to close gap when it came to 2007. The difference is that FG has been through long periods of opposition before, so coming close didn’t fracture the party but instead bound it together even more. FF on the other hand with a much reduced local election base looking towards at least 2 terms in opposition might turn in on itself in manner we’ve not seen in Irish politics before. The main players being the tribalists against those who view the party as the best means to power but with any number of smaller factions coming to the fore.