Oh yes, and Fianna Fail is now the actual largest party in the Republic…

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That’s a detail you might miss in all the fun and games. Fianna Fail have edged ahead of Fine Gael in the local councils across the country and now sit on 25% of the vote. That’s a seven per cent rise on the General Election at a time when when there has never been more competition to mainstreams.

As noted about the Sinn Fein surge in Dublin this will mean more FF TDs in parliament.  Despite losing the Dublin Euro seat they now have nine councillors in Dublin, whilst their Dublin West candidate finished second after the Socialist Party Ruth Coppinger and squeezing Sinn Fein’s poll topper Paul Donnelly into third, courtesy of a noticeably improved transfer rate.

Target One on FF’s list was not simply to damage Fine Gael but to start recalling votes that went to FG in the last election. That seems to be accomplished. The Longford Westmeath byelection was tight including a strong showing from former FFer ‘Boxer’ Moran.

As we’ve been patiently pointing out here on Slugger over the last few years the party always had a residual strength across the country even when the polls pegged them as much as 7% behind Sinn Fein.

This was obvious from the number of delegates they’ve been drawing to their last three Ard Fheiseanna. This is why they have punched three points higher than even the RTE exit poll predicted.

That is a substantial resetting of the polling baseline. FG and FF are now neck and neck, with Sinn Fein ten points behind. It gives Fianna Fail a very large swathe of the country to bowl at, and the opportunity to set and develop a new narrative.

Their long time in the national dog house seems to be over just as Ireland’s economic tide is beginning to rise.

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  • keano10

    Even more interesting that senior Fianna Fail figures are openly stating this morning that there are no barriers to a potential coalition government between Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein.

  • Mick Fealty

    That IS interesting…

  • Cric

    Would Sinn Fein take it… would they anchor themselves as a Junior-Coalition option forevermore if they took it… or would they gamble on trying to maintain momentum to get Senior-status if they hold out until the next election?

  • keano10

    It certainly is. I was surprised that Eamon O’Cuiv made such a statement so soon in the wake of the election, and it must surely signal that FF are seriously considering a coalition with SF. It’s wuite an exciting proposition in some respects. The two traditional Republican parties finally coming together (albeit with radically different economic visions). Mind you, I suspect that FF are’nt going to be nearly as hardline in terms of future austeriry measures as they were a few years ago. Political realities have come home to roost…

  • Jagdip

    Eamon O’Cuiv would be more on the republican end of the party. He has been the only FFer visiting Maghaberry prison for example, he’s an Irish speaker and would place Irish unity higher up his political priority list than many in FF.

    However, both FF and FG have softened their cough towards SF over the weekend, because on the showing in these elections, SF is a serious contender for government in 2016.

    FF has done better than expected with the local elections. It was polling in the low 20s and appears to have won 25%-plus. That’s an unexpected boost.

    Performance in both Dublin West and Longford Westmeath was creditable. Their candidate in Dublin West won 50% of the transfers from FG’s Eamonn Coughlan. Decent results in both constituencies, and in GE2016, they’ll expect one TD from both constituencies.

    Euros still up in the air. They’re nowhere in Dublin which remains hostile to FF generally, Crowley was a 1/200 dead cert in South and has distanced himself from the FF brand; he romped home in 1st count. However, it seems the bulk of Crowley’s transfers are going to his running mate which places FF in running for fourth seat (maybe even third). The latest in MNW is Pat Gallagher will take the fourth seat, but it’s on a knife edge with Marian Harkin. So, could be one seat, likely to two and could conceivably stretch to three.

    Unlike Eamon Gilmore, Micheal Martin’s short term future as leader seems to assured on this showing.

  • Mick Fealty

    O’Cuiv I’d take as backbench comment.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    One thing to remember in this is that FF have a ceiling & it’s much lower than say, FG. They’re still poison in most of Dublin and v poor infrastructure there.

    Btw, Jagdip, it’s pure bolloxology that if someone speaks Irish they’re more inclined to be pro SF. The fact O Cuiv is an Irish speaker doesn’t make him any more ‘republican’ among pols in the Dáil e.g. both Kenny & Martin are fluent Irish speakers. In the last Dail all party leaders were fluent (e.g Cowen, Kenny, Sargent, Rabbitte) except SF. And GA’s election hasn’t changed that last one unfortunately.

  • Jagdip

    @TS, knowing the TDs that need to take Irish language classes (paid for, by the Oireachtas), it seems to me that Irish language is more of a Republican trait. O’Cuiv isn’t just an Irish speaker, which as you correctly point out, is not uncommon. O’Cuiv is a Gaeltacht native speaker.

    Anyway, Gilmore to announce resignation at 4pm apparently. As predicted, he is toast. But unless Labour can change the direction of the coalition, which is unlikely given the debt levels and 5% deficit and €2bn budget required of our Troika lenders this year, looks like a general election might be in the offing.

  • keano10

    Clearly the current scale of Independent’s makes any future General Election predictions all the more hazardous. However one might realistically assume that a coalition with SF must at least be on Fianna Fail’s radar.

    What are their other options? Labour is very much a poisoned brand and it’s unlikely that their percentage vote would even be enough to form a coalition. A FF/FG coalition will simply never happen.

  • Jagdip

    Keano10

    “A FF/FG coalition will simply never happen.”

    Paddy Power odds on next govt
    FG/FF 5/6
    FG/Labour 7/2
    FF/SF 6/1

    Most of the commentariat I know in Dublin believe a FG/FF government is the most likely configuration, both right of center, both signed up to the Troika plan for paying down debt and correcting the deficit.

  • Cric

    FF form minority government. Sinn Fein sit back as populist belligerents, blocking austerity budgets and whatnot. Sinn Fein try to become Senior-partner in 2021 just as the economy is rebounding. Job’s a good-un.

  • Cric

    @Jagdip a FF/FG coalition would be handing SF de facto official opposition status. I’m sure SF would welcome that…

  • keano10

    Jagdip,

    I take your point, but senior FF members have openly baulked at any coalition with a party for whom they have almost a century of open animosity. Many feel that the FF grassroots would never forgive them if they were to take up that option. They are much more likely to explore a different option where they could blame any shortfallings on their junior coalition partner. ( let’s be honest, they are past masters at doing just that).

  • gendjinn

    Adams has to go. I fear his ego will push him into junior coalition partner in the next government just so he can be in govt for the centenary.

    Best thing for SF is to let FF & FG form the next government, with the hope that it destroys one of them finally ending our civil war politics BS.

  • Jagdip

    @Cric, on current showing, it is probably the so-called “technical group” of Independents that would form the biggest Opposition block, with SF in 2nd place and Labour in 3rd.

    I think Micheal Martin and Enda Kenny will be talking before the week is out, because I can’t see how Labour can continue in government (the consensus is that John the Baptist couldn’t turn their fortunes around whilst they are the junior partners to this center right FG).

  • Jagdip

    @Keane10, do you think the animosity between FF and FG would be more or less than the animosity between SF and DUP?

    Do you think the saw “a day in government is worth a lifetime in opposition” doesn’t apply to FG, FF or, for that matter, SF?

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Keano10, that 5/6 is spot on. The prospect of power will soften the cough of FF, it always has (and don’t forget 1916, neither will want SF taking the salute outside the GPO)

    Jagdip, O Cuiv is a Dub. Born & Bred.

  • socaire

    Mr Allister is pulling a fast one. Nesbitt not so smiley now.

  • RDME

    Opinion polls from the last couple of months for the next GE (averaging about FG 25%, FF 22%, SF 20%, LAB 8%) appear to have predicted the results of European election (FFG 22.3% each, SF 19.5%, Labour 5.3%) much more accurately than any other. It would seem that people’s voting intentions for the Dáil and the EP align a lot more closely than poll weighting would suggest.

    The point that the FF vote is underestimated is a good one, and I think they’d have to be the frontrunners to lead the FFG coalition at this point.

  • keano10

    Jagdip,

    I think the point about any proposed coalition between FG and FF is that it would finally render the question about why they exist as separate parties. As much as people might mock the relevance of how these parties came into being, the old pro-treaty and anti-treaty sentiments still run very strong through the generations of both of these parties.

    I just cannot ever see a coalition between them coming to fruition. Time will tell, I guess…

  • gendjinn

    keano10,

    the civil war politics is irrelevant to the under 45s in the south.

    If Labour & the blueshirts can go into coalition over & over again, screwing the poor & working classes every single time. Then FF & FG will happily go into coalition for the very same reason – jobs for the boys.

    FFG govt in the next election followed by SF/Lab in the following, if the current trends continue.

  • keano10

    NI EUROPEAN RESULT

    Martina Anderson elected on the first count. Some Sinn Fein reps were predicting around 148, 000 votes today, so her total of almost 160,000 seems to have exceeded their own expectations.

    Incidentally, the SDLP percentage vote here of 13% is their worst electoral performance since 1973.

    TUV 75,806,
    SF 159,813,
    SDLP 81,594,
    CONS 4,144,
    GREEN 10,598
    DUP 131,163,
    ALLIANCE 44,432,
    NI21 10,553,
    UUP 83,438,
    UKIP 24,584.

  • Roy Walsh

    Mick, yellow card, it’s TDs in an Dail not parliament.
    A good showing, mind you, people perhaps realising, especially given the blame heaped on FF Deputies for the disaster following not gritted roads and footpaths during 2009/10 heavily snowed winters, that it was the FG and ILP, as well as SF Councillors who were actually competent in this regard but quickly passed the blame to Fianna Fail Ministers.
    Remember please, it’s Dail Éireann, not Parliament Ireland.

  • Roy Walsh

    Cric, don’t discount the possibility of a SF (majority), FF coalition, believe me, many grassroot FF members do not baulk too much at this idea if they get back into government before 2016 and can stand at the GPO in government.

  • Jagdip

    @Roy Walsh,

    “Remember please, it’s Dail Éireann, not Parliament Ireland.”

    Quite right, and Stormont is now An Oireachtas Beag.

  • Tadhg Curran

    “O’Cuiv is a Gaeltacht native speaker.”

    Oh God, not a Gaeltacht native speaker! Horrors! Quick, let’s nail him to a cross!

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    Before SF runs away with its own hubris, as an opposition Party it should have performed a bit better. Fact is the biggest gain is those of no Party affiliation, which makes souther politics all the more interesting.
    RoI Council seats:
    Fianna Fáil 262
    Other 232
    Fine Gael 227
    Sinn Féin 157
    Labour 50

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    Forgot, 20 seats still to declare on those numbers.

  • Roy Walsh

    Jagdip, it might be worth pointing out that, per. the FF corú, Art.1, An Oireachtas beag should never come about, it should be simply, An Oireachtas Éireann.
    The sooner the, so called, ‘Republican Party’ get themselves round to this ideal, the better for us all.
    Organising to fight the next Assembly election here might be a good place to begin,
    Sorry, no link to their Corú
    That said, this Party have made an unexpected rise in voter confidence and, with Sinn Féin, might be the alternative which might restore our economic fortunes.

  • Newman

    I think we need a health warning here. Time of unprecedented austerity and an election which has little influence on day to day reality and then people choose to protest. The Greens always do well in this election and yet are a negligible presence in Dail. I think there is too much hubris about SF playing a role as junior coalition partner…I am sceptical that their Dail representation is going to exponentially rise.

  • Politico68

    “That is a substantial resetting of the polling baseline. FG and FF are now neck and neck, with Sinn Fein ten points behind”

    Factually incorrect statement there. Sinn Fein got 19.5% of the popular vote in the Euro Poll which is a better indicator of voter preference. Less than 5 points behind both FF nad FG.

  • mark7694

    Fianna Fail’s increased vote share from 17.4% in the 2011 general election to 25.3% in these local government elections is something they can take pleasure from.

    It’s worth noting, however, that the 2011 election result was at such a low base of support that Fianna Fail was likely to re-gain a percentage of previous voters, roughly 8% in this case, especially after 3 years in opposition during this current government.

    The real issue for Fianna Fail is if they can make further progress from this. The party’s brand is still tainted, and when you put the 25% mark into a historical context in spite of their clear growth, it’s still some 15-20% lower than the support Fianna Fail enjoyed for most of the last century.

  • megatron

    I think in many ways the euros are a better reflection of support than the locals.

    On that basis SF / FG and FF are all tightly bunched together. There is no doubt that SF lost votes in some areas where they just didnt have the infrastructure.

    Take Meath CoCo – in Navan LEA SF got 24% of the vote because they have been there a long time (Joe Reilly was for a long time their only presence in Meath). Whereas in Ratoath (not that different) they got 10%. SF had 1 candidate in Ratoath and FF had 4 – spread well across the LEA to maximise votes.

    Certainly the Euros has established for SF that 20% is an achievable figure for them in a GE.

  • Politico68

    Megatron, the problem for Sinn Fein (and GA alluded to this in an interview yesterday) is that the party is struggling to process its new members rapidly enough in order to filter them through as candidates. It still is a small party organisationally in the South and when you have a wave of peope clamouring to join it takes a while to organize them. the focus now for all of us will be the Westies next year, this will also give the party the breathing space it needs in the south to organize the new blood.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Maybe FF should learn from Cameron, embrace your rival with all the warmth and generosity you can muster, then sit back and watch them wither. A much smarter man than he ever gets credit for.

  • Politico68

    Drumlins, FF have done just that in every administrations they have ever formed .. PDs, greens, labour ….

  • Harry Flashman

    “The party’s brand is still tainted”

    When they ditch the man who looks like (and was in an unofficial capacity) a particularly unpleasant undertaker as leader and replace him with one of the many photogenic and intelligent young women they have in their ranks they could safely secure senior-party in a coalition status within the next few years. Hell, they could be there now if their leadership didn’t stink of corpses mouldering in unmarked graves.

    Will Gerry do the right thing though?

  • Politico68

    Harry, can I borrow your crystal ball please?

  • BarneyT

    There are circumstances that are responsible for Irish fluency and lack of. GA will be ridiculed for his lack of ability, however, he’s from West Belfast and grew up in an English speaking region, as many of us have on the island. That immediately presents a hindrance towards fluency, despite efforts.

    Ok, those who push the language for political reasons and perhaps use little bits of it to exclude unionists across the border deserve to be ridiculed.

    Lets not get elitist on this matter. A failure to command the language as a native should not be a deal breaker and our history should be borne in mind.

  • Cric

    Here’s a scenario.

    Hung UK Parliament after UK GE2015.

    SF enter coalition Government in Irish GE2016.

    SF take their seats in the British House of Commons to counter Unionist wedge on British Government.

    The British Government relies on support of the Irish Government in it’s own Parliament?

    Fantasy, I know, but still fun :-)

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Can’t see much of an issue there, Cric, they’d probably be working for MI5 anyway…..

  • Joe_Hoggs

    How about NI and the ROI uniting under British rule?

  • BarneyT

    ah now Joe….uncalled for…we were all getting on so well

  • Roy Walsh

    Barney, don’t knock Joe’s idea too much, there are many, including FF and FG politicians, who believe this is an option via joining the commonwealth wherein there may be increased opportunity for developing trade links while remaining as a Republic (of).
    Albeit Joe, this would of course be ‘re-uniting’ though we’ve never really been separated.

  • Jagdip

    Although MNW is subject to a recount, the present position is FF has won just one seat from 11, that is 9%, compared with 3 wins or 33% for SF, 4 or 44% for FG and 3 or 33% Independents.

    The Dublin 1st preferences are down from 13.6% in 2009 to 12.6% (and remember in 2009, they had just had an emergency austerity budget). In 2004, they were #2 in Dublin after FG.

    The 27%-plus performance with local election seats will probably save Micheal Martin for now, but he is still weak, and Michael McGrath appears unusually ambitious these last few days. The #1 issue right now in domestic Irish politics is the withdrawal of discretionary medical cards and Micheal Martin’s performance in health during his ministerial tenure is spancelling the FF performance. Water charges were agreed by FF with the Troika in 2010, when Micheal Martin was a minister in foreign affairs, so again they are spancelled.

    Although he’s not toast, Micheal faces troubled waters, and John McGuinness appeared critical of Micheal over the last weekend, Eamon O’Cuiv is a strong critic. When this government reshuffles, the internal opposition towards Micheal may reach crescendo.