Fianna Fail’s real electoral nightmare – Part 1

Jim McDaid
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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.

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7 Responses to Fianna Fail’s real electoral nightmare – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Jason O Mahony » Blog Archive » It’s the wrong Fianna Fail, Gromit!

  2. Paddy Matthews says:

    First of all, if FF are losing only 20 or 30 seats that would be a “good” outcome for them on current form. A seat figure in the low 40s or even lower isn’t out of the question – the international moves towards austerity and retrenchment and talk about a double-dip recession make me wonder exactly where the booming export markets that are supposed to be our salvation are going to materialise. This government is running out of time, unless it tries repealing the 1927 Electoral Amendment Act to give itself an extra two years in office.

    Of the pairs you’ve talked about, I’d think it quite likely in the three named Dublin constituencies that FF will fail to get either of the two sitting TDs elected, and I wouldn’t consider the same result impossible in Kildare North and Cork North Central. There simply may not be a quota of votes there for them in many urban areas any longer.

    Moynihan in Cork NW is in a better position to hold on than O’Keeffe in any case because he’s less dependent on a volatile suburban vote.

    And the final point I’d make is that even if the party hierarchy do “make the hard calls” in the final week and throw their weight behind particular candidates, will the local organisations or, more importantly, the remaining FF voters pay them any heed?

  3. dsullivan says:

    The reference to 20 or 30 seats was merely for illustration purposes and wasn’t really a projection on my part of what will happen in terms of seat losses.

    The 2nd problem for FF (which I noted over 4 years ago here

    is as you also point out that the vote might split too evenly and where they might have solidly gotten one seat they might get none at all!

  4. I suspect that discipline could go awry as a TD fighting for their political careers (and livelihoods) wont care too much about vote management and will gladly stray into areas assigned to colleagues. There will also be more ‘solo’ campaigns and if the local elections are anything to go by plenty of FF candidates that for all the world look like Independents.
    In living memory Fianna Fail have never been in this position in the polls. So its a whole new level of party planning. When selecting candidates what % of the vote are they assuming?
    Too many candidates will lose them seats (as happened in the local elections in Dublin)

    A knock on from all this could well be the Seanad elections from the various panels. There is going to be some fight to get on the Fianna Fail ticket . As the number of Fianna Fail councillors dropped significantly the Seanad elections have the potential to be a big bloodbath.
    With the next Local and European elections not due until 2014, there will be a lot of ex Fianna Fail TDs at a loose end.

  5. dsullivan says:

    That’s the basis of the linked post in the comment above that under a certain % party discipline falls after. It didn’t actually happen in 2007 but the logic was and still is sound. The key for parties running against FF will be where FF might hang on for 2 seats to talk up the prospects of one candidate so that one ends up too strong and that the weaker one has no chance of catching up and where FF should hold one seat to talk up the prospects of the other so that the vote is too evenly split between them and that there is such bad blood that much of the vote is too personal to transfer well between them.

    I’ve got another post from last summer which pointed out that a FF government even with Labour can’t command a majority in the next Seanad even with the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees. They simply don’t have the numbers any more.

  6. Pingback: FF’s strategy for salvation | Daniel Sullivan - he’s a little political

  7. howard goodisson says:

    interesting page, FF will not win another election for a generation, currently labour could field a shit load of trained chimps and make huge gains, FG are going around with their heads firmly shoved up their own arseholes, and will not make any significant gains due entirely to our Leader,

    yes i did say our leader,

    pissed off member

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