The Irish left set for election surge?

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You do get a sense that the next Irish general election, all bets are off. Sinn Fein misfortune last time our, over which some Dublin based journalists taunted them mercilessly after the last election, and Mark Hennessey’s ‘Tallaght effect’ (see link for reference) seem now to be in rapid reverse. The former feel good effect for taxi drivers and new mortgage holders has dissipated and feel good is now feel very bad indeed.

So, according to Noel Whelan things are set rather differently for Sinn Fein in next year’s election:

The impact of this shift may see Sinn Féin gain its largest representation in Dáil Éireann to date. The party fell from a high of five seats in 2002 to 4 in 2007 but could, on these poll figures, be set for more than a dozen seats in 2011.

The party’s capacity to capitalise on this surge has been greatly assisted by the fact that it coincides with two significant happenings for Sinn Féin. The Pearse Doherty win in Donegal South West and the decision to deploy Gerry Adams south of the Border came just at the right time with the former likely to prove more significant for the party’s improved positioning in the Republic than the latter.

Although only a wet week in the Dáil, Doherty has already made a significant impression as the party’s new finance spokesman.

In considering how real the momentum for the growth of the “fourth bloc” might be, it is worth noting that two of the three byelections held since 2007 were won by such candidates: Doherty in Donegal South West and O’Sullivan who succeeded Tony Gregory in Dublin Central. Even in Dublin South in June 2009, the only byelection won by a main party was won by a non-political candidate, George Lee.

And he gives an idea of where the fresh intake is likely to spring from:

Sinn Féin got more than half a quota in nine constituencies last time out. These include, obviously, the four where it retained seats, namely, Cavan-Monaghan, Louth, Dublin South Central and Kerry North.

The others are Dublin South West where Sean Crowe lost out, Donegal South West, Donegal North East, Dublin North West and Dublin Mid West. Sinn Féin also secured almost a half quota in Sligo-Leitrim North.

In four other constituencies, Sinn Féin put in a mediocre performance but could still contend for a seat next time. David Cullinane polled just over a third of a quota in Waterford, which is more open this time around.

Maurice Quinlavin got only a quarter of a quota in Limerick East but has had a much-enhanced profile since, not least because of his cameo role in Willie O’Dea’s fall from Cabinet. Brian Stanley got 0.4 of a quota in Laois-Offaly in 2007 but recent polling shows him improving dramatically.

Whelan points out too that with a larger fourth bloc of left leaning independents, this could come to quite a vocal platform for the next Dail. And possibly afford Sinn Fein the opportunity to repair some of the damage inflicted on their council level party machines in the next local elections.

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  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Is such a sanitised view of elements of the ‘fourth bloc’ good for democracy? The Rafia hasn’t gone away and paramilitary linked restorative justice has been strongly resisted in Ireland. IMO it would be a shame if the electorate moved the Dáil from the frying pan into the fire. Let’s hope the MSM provides an accurate portrayal of all of the parties and independents in the lead-up to the elections. Let the pigs out of the pokes.

  • Organized Rage

    Mick

    SF also have a number of capable youngish candidates in the south who cannot be tarred with taking part in the war, I’m thinking of people like Pearse Doherty and Eoin O’Broin.

  • http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com Paul Evans

    It’ll be interesting to see how the fact that that SF are being *seen* as having an opportunity will change things. Will other parties start to attack them where they previously ignored them? Will such attacks backfire? Will they get a Clegg-like poll bounce during the campaign only to see their vote fall back to ‘no-change’ levels?

    Whatever happens, it’s a massive moment for them – a ‘now or never’ event – if they can’t get a bounce this time, its hard to see when they will get it. They’re not like other political parties – they can’t aspire to being long-term also-rans.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think that its much too early to tell with any accuracy. A week seems a very very long time in Irish politics. We have had the Doherty factor sneak up on us.
    To some extent Sinn Féin even in the South will never fully be able to disconnect itself from the North. Even if it was so minded, the younger generation are stronger in the Northern Command area of the Irish Republican Army. And must at least pay lip service to the memory of the men with black berets.
    And of course people like DeValera, Aitken and Lemass were axtive 50 years after the War of Independence.
    But with a feel good factor in 2007 and a feel very bad factor in 2010 ….Sinn Féin will score much better.
    Yes there will be some unfriendly fire directed towards them.
    I expect the memory of Garda McCabe to be invoked.

    “Some Dublin based journalists”…well yes. “Actually highly politically motivated journalists” but they perhaps captured the public mood in 2007. Not quite so much now. Attempts by some elements of the Northern media and the worst elements in the Blogosphere to demonise Sinn Féin may or may not be accurate. But they have backfired and had no detrimental effect on SFs rise. “Some Dublin based journalists” would be well advised to learn that lesson.

  • another

    The most important factor which will benefit the left will be the neutralisation of certain arms of the Irish press such as the Independent.

    These organs of FF which lauded the property speculators, and cheered as they managed to squeeze ever big loans out of Anglo et al, are simply no longer able to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes; the story has got to bad for that (even though their coverage remains selective).

    In days of old, when cronyism, clientelism and the Galway tent were the things that mattered, they were even able to put the boot into the Shinners big time; on some occasions, happily portraying them and their fellow travellers as nothing more than bank robbers.

    The boot is now on the other foot, and it has been notable over the past six months that the Independent has struggled to come up with a coherent line on the present mess that we find ourselves in. One suspects that it they attempt to turn on the Shinners again, that it may actually act in the latters favour.

    Ireland’s most high-profile tax exiles include: | Telecoms tycoon Denis O’Brien | Financier Dermot Desmond | Racehorse owners JP McManus and John Magnier | Packaging and paper magnate Michael Smurfit | Media tycoon Sir Anthony O’Reilly | Dancer Michael Flatley | Retail giant Hugh MacKeown.

    O’Brien and the O’Reilly family are the two largest shareholders in Independent News and Media.

  • Alias

    There isn’t any left/right decide in Irish politics, so a lot of it is folks shifting to parties such as Labour that are seen as protecting the more vulnerable members of society. The shift there is a result of more people are feeling vulnerable.

  • Alias

    In case that point isn’t clear: the shift isn’t a result of folks reading up on political theory or reading party manifestoes, but is the same old selfish determiner of ‘what’s in it for me’ that they have used previously. As more people are in need, that is a growing voter base for those parties that are seen as shifting wealth from the haves to the have-nots. As usual, the parties that prosper from an economically poorer voter base have a strong disincentive to improve the economy since that improvement erodes their voter base. So again it is individuals putting their selfish interest before the national interest.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Populism and left politics aren’t the same thing. SF have no ideological commitment to anything of a truly leftish political colouration whatsoever beyond empty sloganeering, most of it a combination of silly nationalist sentimentality and the political party equivalent of “I’m a people person, me”. I can’t think of a single example of anything that they’ve done in the northern administration which would evidence their left-wing credentials. They may think they’re playing a different game in the south (trying to and actually doing so aren’t the same thing either, mind) but people aren’t daft and their primary school economics don’t, I’m afraid, represent a credible genuine alternative to the criminals, incompetents and cute hoor spivs of FF. They don’t have enough talent in the party to make inroadfs into the southern consciousness and, like it or not, leveraging from leading provos with harsh ‘alien’ northern accents trying to squeeze the juice out of their involvement in the peace process probably alienates more people than it attracts – all the more so when the message they’re trying to entice them towards is bollocks anyway.

  • pippakin

    SF are, relatively, popular at the moment because they are the only ones mentioning the ‘D’ word. In order for Labour to regain any possibly lost ground they too must explore all possibilities,vague talk of ‘renegotiating’ will not be enough to persuade some.

    Its not about selfish or not. Its about the immediate and medium term future of the country.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Pipakin……..Sinn Féin can use the “D” word more easily than the Labour Party.
    The balance of probaability at this stage is that SF will not form any part of a winning coalition (it can therefore afford to use the D word)
    The balance of probability at this stage is that labour WILL be a part in the next Govt. And more likely than not the junior parner. It cannot therefore use the D word as FG wont accept it.

    As the Lib Dem experience in Britain shows…Labour will destroy itself if it uses the D word in full knowledge that it cannot keep the pledge.

  • joeCanuck

    As usual, the parties that prosper from an economically poorer voter base have a strong disincentive to improve the economy since that improvement erodes their voter base.

    Alias, that is extremely cynical and, I think, also an extreme generalization. Maybe I’m naive, but I believe a lot of politicians, especially the newer ones, do think that they can make a difference in people’s lives. Now I’m not so naive that I don’t believe that there are lots who are in it for themselves.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    fitzjameshorse

    The crucial difference between the Britian and Ireland (apart from the % amount of GDP owed by the banks) is that ‘sensible opinion’ is in favour of default in Ireland – most non politcally aligned ocmmentators seem to think Ireland cannot actually pay their debts .

    SF is on the correct side of the economic arguement and what will be interesting is at what point the Labour party or FG quietly attempt to change sides.

  • Seamus Clarke

    It seems the only thing the author writing for The Guardian in the link got right was that the next election in the south will be in 2011, and even then it seems more a typo than a prophecy.

  • pippakin

    FJH

    Yes SF being unlikely to be in government can afford to do ‘grand gesture’ politics but that can be very useful, they will gain seats in the election and a left wing alliance is not beyond the realms of possibility – I hope.

  • Mick Fealty

    @Seamus

    Typo, yes. But what else was wrong about it?

  • abucs

    I just hope if Sinn Fein have an electoral impact in the south it will translate into good (supported) governance.

  • pippakin

    abucs

    And I just hope that if SF do have an electoral impactin the south it will still be small enough to keep them in a minority position with minimum members in a position of authority.

    Pearse Dohertys halo slipped yesterday on tv when he managed to be completely dismissive of the gun running antics of one of his colleagues.

  • Reader

    fitzjameshorse1745: he crucial difference between the Britian and Ireland (apart from the % amount of GDP owed by the banks) is that ‘sensible opinion’ is in favour of default in Ireland – most non politcally aligned ocmmentators seem to think Ireland cannot actually pay their debts .
    And therefore probably won’t have to. Surely Ireland will be released from much of the debt a few years down the line if they make a bit of an effort on the deficit. Whereas opting for default now is a bit like chopping off your leg to escape a bear trap after the Fire Brigade has already been called.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Reader,

    yes, that is a fair point. Tactically that may well be the best option but that caveated view is more difficult to communicate to the electorate.

  • pippakin

    Reader

    Yes, I suspect that is what we all want to believe but it is not in writing and nor will it be and surely Ireland has had enough of the ‘trust me I’m a politician’ brigade.

    There is no way Ireland can commit to paying the banks debts on the off chance that a benevolent EU/ECB might let us off some time/never in the dim and distant future.

  • Greenflag

    IWSMWDI,

    ‘what will be interesting is at what point the Labour party or FG quietly attempt to change sides.;

    FG seem to have got the message as of today . Of course they may be just trying to limit the number of seats that SF win come the election .

  • PaddyReilly

    Whereas opting for default now is a bit like chopping off your leg to escape a bear trap after the Fire Brigade has already been called

    Poor metaphor. The ‘Fire Brigade’ are not a band of public spirited individuals, proffering free relief: they are bunch of slavering loan sharks forcing the Irish to sign up for a package which is going to cost an arm and a leg. If anyone is an amputator, it is them.

    Whereas the debt that Ireland has got into is not necessary. It does make sense to bail out your nation’s banks: it inspires confidence. But if the cost of doing so is so enormous, it will bring down the whole governmental system, then this cannot be done. The debt must be thrown back on the banks’ original owners. Calling this defaulting is a calumny. It is rather like the Duchess of York borrowing so much on the strength of her mother in law being the Queen that eventually the Palace have to announce that they are not going to pay her debts ever again.

  • PaddyReilly

    Put it this way. Mr and Mrs Irish are out walking in the woods, when they come across a wounded deer. Ah, poor Bambi, says Mrs I. we must get a Vet. The Vet is summoned, a Celtic Tiger creature, who gives them an estimate for the cost of getting a helicopter and treating the brute. They realise that they would have to remortgage their house to do so. They then lose interest in the project and decide to have the beast put down instead.

  • Seamus Clarke

    Mick,

    Gaibh mo leithscéal for only replying now, I had forgotten all about this article until I seen it referenced in Michael White’s latest offering on the Guardian site.

    Apart from the smug declaration from the writer that the Shinners were a spent force in areas such as Dublin (the nameless sources claiming Sinn Féin were nowhere to be seen in working class Dublin added a touch of class as always) being way off the mark, the most glaring mistake the writer makes is that Sinn Féin don’t do economics. His reasoning for this of course was the Sinn Féin policy of nationalising the banks and their insistence that the wealth should be redistributed.

    Always interesting to watch those “in the know” getting it so frighteningly wrong.

  • Reader

    Seamus Clarke: His reasoning for this of course was the Sinn Féin policy of nationalising the banks and their insistence that the wealth should be redistributed.
    Since the wealth was a mirage, but the debt is real, and the banks are a disaster area, is SF *still* in favour of nationalising the banks and redistributing the debt?