Sinn Fein could be ‘Kingmakers’?

That’s the prediction from Michael McDowell to his party’s annual conference, the penultimate one before the Republic’s general election next year. It seems to be part of strategy of painting a strong choice between left and right:

First there is the issue of Sinn Fein. If they get between 8% and 10% of the vote and translate that into seats they will win between 11 and 16 seats in the next Dail. And the paper (before delegates) spells out what that will mean if those seats constitute the effective balance of power. Second, there is the question of the Rainbow.

No one believes that a Fine Gael-Labour-Green Rainbow could win a majority and have more seats than Fianna Fail, the Progressive Democrats, the non-left independents and Sinn Fein unless it were to be supported and kept in office by Joe Higgins, Seamus Healy, Catherine Murphy, Tony Gregory and perhaps one or two others.

And the rub: “That my friends is a slump coalition”.

Ask yourself one simple question on transport infrastructure. Would a Rainbow including the Greens build and complete a national network of motorways now under construction? Yes or no? What would they do on one-off rural housing?

The one thing that we can be sure of is that Labour would win every battle on policy. Why? Because (Labour leader) Pat Rabbitte has told us so. He has repeatedly stated that the Labour Party would be the driving force in a Rainbow government and that, by the way, explains exactly why he wants to depend on the Greens, the Socialists and the left independents.

Interestingly, the rank and file of the party have voted to back the leadership’s refusal to enter a pre-election pact with Fianna Fail.

  • “No one believes that a Fine Gael-Labour-Green Rainbow could win a majority”

    Based on the recent polls, an FG/Labour/Green majority is actually quite possible. I think that McDowell just doesn’t anyone to believe it.

  • Crataegus

    MD is simply painting as bleak a picture of the alternative as possible and mixing in a bit of SF sulphur. The Rainbow just won’t have the numbers (unless something decisive happens in the year to come). None of the 3 parties are making any real progress and they are in competition with each other for many of the seats. SF’s role if it moves forward will be to make a PD & FF government impossible making the likely government FF & Labour.

    It is time FF had a rest but it just will not happen. PDs would also benefit from a period out of office and are likely to get it.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    The Rainbow just won’t have the numbers (unless something decisive happens in the year to come).

    Yeah, like Labour dumping Rabbitte. Labour aren’t going to make any advances in the polls while he’s in charge, and while they stay stuck on 11% the Rainbow isn’t going to happen.

    McDowell is also on highly dodgy ground with most voters by trumpeting the motorway network, which most people thought was a good idea, but now it turns out we’ll all be fleeced for decades to come by private tolling companies. By current plans, there could be as many as four tolls for me on a journey between Galway and Dublin. People would prefer less tolled private roads and more public transport. And then there’s Health, which the PDS are in charge of – and failing to make any impact in

    It is interesting though that both FF & the PDs seem to have decided that their main tactic in the next election will be trying to terrify the electorate with bogeymonstering about the Greens. While that might work with elderly voters, it could backfire badly with younger voters and could give the Greens a significant boost.

    [wild speculation] Given the age profile of most of the Labour TDs, and Rabbitte’s unpopularity with the voters, and a major assault on the Greens by FF/PDs, and a big turnout from younger voters, could Labour potentially end up being the third leg on a Rainbow stool? I know it’s unlikely to say the least, but….
    [/wild speculation]

  • Craetagus/Ciaran Irvine

    the only government on offer at the moment is the Rainbow. Look at the options:-
    FF majority – obviously not on
    FF + PD – obviously not on
    FF + SF – ruled out by FF
    FF + Lab – ruled out by Labour
    FG + Lab – may not have the numbers
    FG + Lab + Green – probably will have the numbers, at least for a minority govt (43% on latest poll)

    As the election approaches and as it becomes that there is no FF-led govt on offer, FF voters may desert the party similar to what happened FG in 2002. The more Pat Rabbitte rejects FF, the weaker FF becomes and the more likely a FG/Lab or Rainbow becomes.

  • Brian Boru

    I think there is a limit to the extent to which FF voters will desert the party. I think they reached their plateau last time. FG’s historically low vote compared to FF since 1932 has been based in part on distrust of FG on Northern Ireland. This is turn has its genesis in the Boundary Commission fiasco of 1925, and the agreement to scrap the Council of Ireland which also included suppressing the Boundary Report (because it proposed we would lose part of East Donegal in return for very little Nationalist territory), and in recent times was revived by John Bruton’s demonstrative lack of sympathy with Northern Nationalists. I think therefore that there is a limit to FG’s potential growth. I predict they will not breach 30% no matter what is likely to happen. Now they seem (Richard Bruton at least) to be calling for immigrants here for 3 years to have General Election votes irrespective of them applying for citizenship. This is a totally no-no for me. Apparently, despite being 10% of the population, they would be 20% of the electorate. This would create a large and new voting bloc, and the embarassing spectacle of politicians pandering to different ethnic groups like in the US would take over from policy debates on health, education, economy etc. It could also make the North and increasingly unimportant part of the political debate down here. An immigrant party in coalition might push for more official languages e.g. Polish, Chinese, and for the ending of compulsory Irish. After all, what reason do they have to care about the language? Their ancestors didn’t speak it.

    I am a traditional FF voter who voted FG at the locals and Euros because they have no role on NI policy there and seem to have higher standards of behaviour given recent revelations from the tribunal (not withstanding the Lowry affair). I felt in 2004 that FG, as supporters (albeit fairly quiet ones) of the Citizenship referendum, were preferable to Labour, which was opposing it. I also felt that as most of the corruption seemed to be going on at local level, that a party arguably with a better reputation on alleged corruption levels would be a better bet, especially given the councils’ roles on planning permission. However I am far less enthused about the idea of voting for them in Dail elections. I hope they fail to get in.

    By proposing the effective removal of the link between citizenship and General Election voting rights, FG are making a mockery of the whole concept of citizenship. What is citizenship if it does not have certain rights that come with it? I want my Irish citizenship to mean something more than some sort of symbolic badge. I am opposed to a policy of increasing multiculturalism because I have seen the French situation last year. I am not anti-immigration but I want to see assimilation instead of multiculturalism. The problem with multiculturalism is that it:

    A: Erodes national identity by watering down outward expressions of national identity by the State.

    B: Causes new citizens from other countries to identify more with their ethnic group than with their new countries. This encourages ghettoisation and ethnic-based voting blocs. In turn, this creates a divided society in which “them and us” because the reason for voting.

    C: Brings potentially incompatible ideas into the body-politic, including political-Islam. 41% of Muslims in Britain recently polled called for Sharia law to be introduced in the UK. Sharia is incompatible with Western ideas of freedom of speech, women’s rights, homosexuality, democracy, sepration of church and state, and freedom from forced marriage.

    My preferred model is assimilation, and borrows much of its components from the US. It would work as follows:

    A: Patriotism in the schools. The Tricolour would be raised over the school each day, the national anthem sung, and a pledge of loyalty would be made by all pupils/students.

    B: A copy of the 1916 Proclamation placed in every school.

    C: All public buildings required to fly the Tricolour.

    We need this because the US – the only Western country to successfully assimilate large numbers of immigrants – has a similar policy. We need to use schools as engines of assimilation. The current playing down of the Tricolour in the schools is shameful and while intended as one of our ministers has said to promote “inclusiveness” may actually end up promoting exclusiveness.

    Martin Brady FF TF proposed some of my ideas recently. It seems that a copy of Amhran na bhFiann is to be sent to the schools. This is okay as far as it goes, but is not far enough.

  • Brian Boru

    We have to preserve Irish national identity. Identity is what makes a country different from others. Even some immigrants agree with this. A Sri Lankan women was on RTE Radio 1 recently said that newcomers should accept the Irish ways. It is in all our interests, Irish and ethnic-minority, for us to have a cohesive identity. The nation is the fundamental unit of society, and without national identity society can start to fragment, as in France.

    I won’t vote PD’s despite admiring Michael McDowell for being so brave in criticising “Political-Correctness” on asylum-seekers before a Dail Committee and “cock and bull stories” and saying that if he had his way they would be turned around on the next flight. Unfortunately I am doubtful if all his party agrees with this. Was listening to St.Liz O’Donnell on the radio today saying that we should consider FG’s idea for General Election voting rights for all immigrants here for 3 years. I had understood beforehand that the PD’s and FF were saying they preferred the current system while Labour said there were more important things related to the electoral register to sort out.

    You might think I would consider voting SF, considering their republicanism. However I am unsure if I trust SF on this. Is the provisional movement really interested in a United Ireland , with so much money to be. I am curious that they seem opposed to a numerical limit on immigration and seem blind to the possible consequences of this for Irish nationalism. Can the impulse for a UI among a majority of the Southern electorate survive if a majority down here are no longer Irish? They have not thought true this properly in my opinion. They trot out the same PC message on immigration as the other parties – even described on the radio as the most positive on Richard Bruton’s idea – and supporting multiculturalism. Surely one of the most central tenets of nationalism is a common identity? How do they square this with their other views?

    I consider SF to be bogus nationalists using the memory of past heroes for their own cynical purposes. They seem hostile to capitalism and I do not trust them. I am also perturbed by the McCartney murder and the Northern Bank Robbery. While not 100% convinced the PIRA did the latter, I do wonder.

    And so it is with a certain despair that I realise I may be forced – with others – to choose the lesser of the evils – FF (or an immigration-sceptic party/Independent).

  • Crataegus


    FF + Lab – ruled out by Labour

    Don’t bet on it, for National good and all that. If the opportunity arises and the need to form a government paramount Labour would have lots of reasons to change their position.

    The big problem for the rainbow is if one of the three parties makes gains it is as likely to be at the expense of their partners in the rainbow as FF or PDs


    The nation is the fundamental unit of society, and without national identity society can start to fragment, as in France.


    Where is the fragmentation of society in France?

    The whole cohesive identity argument is bogus.Identity and culture are always in flux, you can’t take a snapshot and preserve it for ever.
    the trick is to accept change is natural, but try and manage it so that which is precious is not lost.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Brian Boru,

    My preferred model is assimilation, and borrows much of its components from the US. It would work as follows:

    A: Patriotism in the schools. The Union flag would be raised over the school each day, the national anthem sung, and a pledge of loyalty would be made by all pupils/students.

    B: A copy of the Act of Union placed in every school.

    C: All public buildings required to fly the Union flag.

    I take it you would also be in favour of the above in all constituent parts of the United Kingdom then?

  • Brian Boru

    “I take it you would also be in favour of the above in all constituent parts of the United Kingdom then? ”

    Not in NI Intelligence Insider because that is different. The Republic is one country with one national identity being the overwhelming majority and with an historical existence as a national homeland. In the UK there are 4 such historical homelands, of which only 1 consented to join the UK – and apparently in that case – Scotland – there were vast demonstrations at the time against entering it. The UK is a country of 4 nations, rather than one nation with as ancient a history as one state such as Ireland.

    “Where is the fragmentation of society in France?”

    TAFKABO, have you already forgotten last years race riots?


    TAFKABO, have you already forgotten last years race riots?

    What race riots?

    I live in one of the suburbs affected, there were no race riots.Just because someone sees a non white face and suddenly it’s a race riot.
    What the riots were about was people not wanting to be different, but rather wanting to be treated the same as most French people are treated, with the same equality of opportunity.
    There was no race riots, because it wasn’t about race, and people of different ethnicities and religions were out on the streets, standing side by side.I live in a place where I am probably the only white protestant for miles, and I feel a damn sight more comfortable walking the streets at night than I ever felt in Belfast.

    What pisses me off is when people start talking about immigrants having to fit in,and then sticking them all in a ghetto and not allowing them to fit in.

  • Cataegus


    We all live in changing societies in a world made smaller by modern transport. The societies of the future are going to be mixed and it is a matter of accepting and adopting. Britain on average has been quite good at this and has had centuries of practice, Ireland is used to people leaving rather than arriving and it may take time to adopt and accept the inevitable. Some will marry local people and in time their descendants will assimilate and be as Irish as Murphy. Others will be Irish but a different Irish, but if you try to force the issue you risk alienation.

    The problems arise as in France or NI or working class areas in Britain or USA or anywhere else when people feel they are oppress or neglected. It creates a fertile ground for evil people to spin their xenophobic nonsense and religious and racial hate.

    It is impossible to preserve any culture and freeze it as it now is, to do so is a costly mistake and in the end destroys the culture itself. For an example that change is afoot in Ireland simply look at the role of the church over the last 50 years.

    We are all people and hopefully in some future world all with have equal rights. The biggest sin on this planet is the millions spent on arms when millions are dying and suffering. You see I take the view that there would be less immigration if the world was a more equal and fairer place.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Brian Boru, Intelligence Insider,
    I too am in favour of some sort of assimilation, but am absolutely against placing state symbols in classrooms or any other form of state loyalty.

    Surely one of the defining features of modern political thought in the West is that a person can be totally opposed to the government of the day and to the constitutional arrangements of the day and still be thoroughly Irish (or British or U.S.-American or whatever)? Even if I did support the particular symbols/flags/pledges I would be happy to rip them down from any school funded by my taxes. We should be entitled to avoid politics most of the time if we please.

    I think that we should be forcing immigrants learn English (give them a choice of Irish as well). For many immigrants we’d be doing them a great favour because in some cultures, restricting access to English (from females for example) helps to keep them down and under the control of so-called community leaders. I’m sure we can think of other measures as well that don’t go as far as the flags, symbols and pledges.

    It’s much easier to mistrust an immigrant (and them to mistrust you) if you’re unable to strike up a conversation with them, whether it’s in a pub or in a queue for a bus. Immigrants should also be able to fully understand election literature, party-political broadcasts and so on.

  • lib2016

    We are not having enough children and I, for one am approaching pensionable age. Since you young people aren’t up to it we need lots of energetic young immigrants if I’m to enjoy the long and disreputable old age I’ve been looking forward to for all these years.

  • lib2016

    …and Sinn Fein won’t have anything like 16 seats but they will give Labour the figleaf they need to go into government with Fianna Fail. It was noticeable during the Labour Party conference how Rabitte drew back from outright rejection of ever contemplating such a deal.

  • Keith M

    This is McDowell trying a tactic that worked so successfully before the last election, warning people of the consequences of sleepwalking into a government that is not of their choosing. In 2002 there was a disctinct possibility that FF on their own, or more more likely with the help of independents forming a government. McDowell flagged that possibility and the PDs got a very nice transfer bonus, doubling their seats.

    The situation is now quite different, the two coalition options FF/PD and FG/Lab/Greens are neck and neck in the polls and neither is likely to get an overall majority if an alection was held tomorrow.

    However two things need to be remembered; firstly that the first SSIAs are coming due this month and will continue to make an impression over the build up to the election. This benefits the government. Secondly, in an election campaign the electorate tends to go for the devil it knows. These two factors alone could push the FF/PDs over the magic 83 needed for government. Add some friendly independents and we’re back to 1997 again.

    FG and Labour are not making any significant progress in the polls and the Greens are semi detatched from that coalitin (and some might suggest from reality). I see the Greens losing seats they won in 2002, Labour making minor gains and FG regaining less than half the seats they lost.

    SF will make gains. They have a declared prediction of 14 seats and they may not be too far off the mark, though I still struggle to come up with more than 10 on a constituency by constituency count.

    Many independents who won in 2002 will not be returned.

    At the moment I’d call FF+PDs + a handful of independents being able to elect a Taoiseach. Should this not work out then the obvious result is that Labour ditch Rabbitte (something many within the party are itching to do) and go into coalition with FF and that is my major problem with PR. We end up with a government that nobody voted for.

  • Cataegus


    I can’t see where FF or the PDs will pick up a few seats to make up for ones they are likely to loose such as 1FF in Dublin Central.

    Agree with you regarding the alternative coalition, the weakest of the three are the Greens, even with all the environmental concerns they seem to lack any real punch, leadership problems or just poor leadership, who knows, but definitely very weak and unlikely to make significant gains?

    That said, like PDs really depends on local knowledge of activity on the ground where they are targeting, but I don’t see them changing much overall and if they do loose it is often more likely to be to FG or Labour than FF or the PDs or perhaps SF in Dublin South East, but that’s unlikely?

  • Keith M

    Cataegus, FF & the PDS won 89 seats in 2002, so in theory they can lose six seats and still be returned. In practise they can lose a few more because they should be able to round up a few willing independents.

    I wouldn’t give up on FF holding two in Dublin Central. Very tight vote management and a very fractured opposition could still see two FF seats.

    I see little or no Green gains. In places like DunLaoire and Dublin South, they’ll be lucky to hold what they have.

    I don’t know where you’re getting an SF gain in Dublin South East from (bar perhaps idle speculation in the Daily Provo). I fully expect McDowell to be elected, and he may again top the poll. SF have about one third of a quota here. Even if that was doubled, they wouldn’t get elected.

    If there is a change here it most likely will be FG taking the Labour seat.

  • Brian Boru

    “FG and Labour are not making any significant progress in the polls”

    Here is the latest poll:

    FG is on 25%. Now all opinion polls underestimate the true level of FG support. Some polls last time put them on 15% and they got 22% – still a disastrous drop of 5% since 1997. FG got 27% in 1997 and won 55 seats. That’s roughly where I expect them to go in 2007.

    I agree that Labour’s not looking good. I have already explained my theory as to why they have slide 5 points since earlier this year. They need to obey their focus-group research on immigration. I think Rabbitte was trying to do this but has met the ire of Magner and others. Bacik criticised Rabbitte’s remarks on Q+A, Costello was evasive about them on Vincent Browne, while Michael D tried to be somewhere in between by seemed a bit more critical.

    “and the Greens are semi detatched from that coalitin (and some might suggest from reality). I see the Greens losing seats they won in 2002, Labour making minor gains and FG regaining less than half the seats they lost.”

    The Greens are on 7%. How that translates into losing seats (they got 3.6% last time) I do not know. Explain?

    I expect that if things stage as they are the Dail will look like this:

    FF: 60
    FG: 55
    Labour: 21
    Greens: 8
    PD: 5
    SF: 11

    This would give a Rainbow govt of FG-Labour-Greens 85 seats – a majority of 2 – or 3 if the Ceann Comhairle continues to be FF Rory O’Hanlon. Rabbitte has been very critical of O’Hanlon’s handling of Dail proceedings. But choosing a Rainbow man – together with the old age-profile of Labour TD’s (none under 60 I think) – would make such a govt unstable. Especially because not since 1981 has a sitting govt won a by-election.

    However, it is likely that some of the Independents will support the Rainbow. Gerry Cowley is likely to be elected and he is not a great ally of this govt. Pro-FF Mildred Fox only barely scraped in last time against Nicky Kelly. Likewise Jackie Healy-Rae and Niall Blaney could be expected to support the govt. However polls in Donegal call into question if the Blaney seat is safe because of a strong challenge from SF. James Breen is likewise a former FF Independent. Paudge Connolly is a hospital candidate. Then there’s former FG minister Michael Lowry, leftwingers Tony Gregory and Finian McGrath – who you would expect would support a Rainbow. However Gregory propped up the 1981 FF-led govt under the so-called “Gregory Deal”. I think that depending on poll-trends in the coming year, the ultimate kingmakes may be Independents. The key question then will be how many of them are former FF. FF-PD were propped up by 4 Independents in 1997-2002.

    I doubt very much that SF will be kingmakers. Their platform is too leftwing and they are viewed with suspicion by the other parties. FG are the most anti-SF party along with the PD’s so I wouldn’t see them accepting SF in a coalition. Most of their vote comes from former FF-voters who are too republican in ideology to vote FG and how regard Labour as too indifferent to the national question. Another section of their vote comes from former Workers Party/DL voters of the hard-left constituency. Analysis apparently shows FF as the main beneficiaries of SF transfers in the Meath by-election. This might help stave off the direst of predictions for the FF collapse next year. I am not 100% convinced that FF will really fall as low as 33% in a General Election – they haven’t been that low since 1927.

    FF may also get a boost for the 1916 commemoration in terms of staving off the haemorrage of votes to SF.

  • Cataegus


    (bar perhaps idle speculation in the Daily Provo)

    Not exactly but close, SF optimists! In Dub SE I think they may take votes from Green TD and he may loose that way but take a seat not a chance.

    DunLaoire and Dublin South are fickle constituencies, Greens may be hard to shift, as they are the sort of constituencies you would expect them to perform in and their two TDs are capable enough. Carlow Kilkenny may be an interesting one; this time round, against my basic instinct, I think they may gain.

    As I said like the PDs and any other party with a small overall percentage you can’t judge by national support, but really need to know what their base and activity level is in specific constituencies. I just don’t know.

  • Cataegus


    Thanks for the link and agree. The interesting part is;

    “Among the parties that gain in Dublin is the Labour Party, with 15 per cent first preference share, 3 per cent above its national share. Sinn Fein reaches 12 per cent of support in Dublin, 2 per cent above its national share, while the Green Party takes a high 12 per cent share of the first preference vote, 5 per cent above the national share in the first three months of the year”.

    On these sort of figures Greens don’t loose in Dublin and may gain, but can’t see where they can really capitalise to gain, Dublin North Central or North East or perhaps Wicklow? All long shots.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    The Greens have a very good chance of a gain in Galway West. Labour, FF and FG are locally in disarray, and the Green candidate Niall O’Brolcháin will probably be Mayor of Galway City in 2007. He only needs to gain a few hundred first preferences and some transfers over his 2002 result to take a seat.

    It’s an interesting constituency, of the five seats only O’Cuiv (FF) and Grealish (PD) are considered really safe. The other three seats could go anywhere.

  • Cataegus


    Interesting one indeed.

    FG must take a seat here and I can’t see FF losing a seat. So if Greens gain it must be at the expense of Labour? The end of Michael D Higgins, is it possible?

    Wonder how well the PDs will fair overall?

  • link

    There’s a great site for the statistics. Its in Irish but easy to work out.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    The FF organisation is in a state of virtual civil war, and Dublin had to step in to decree that the candidates would be picked by the party HQ and not a local convention. That won’t help with the canvassing! The Labour Mayor of last year, Catherine Connelly, has decided in a fit of pique that she’s going to run as an independent, potentially splitting the Labour vote and ensuring her and Michael D lose out. And FG are enagaged in an unseemly scramble around trying to persuade someone other than their incumbent to run. In fairness to McCormack, he’d prefer to retire himself but there’s no obvious bright young thing with a chance of holding the seat. So the FG seat is by no means guaranteed either. Fahey (FF) has become unpopular recently for a variety of reasons, and is considered to be vulnerable.

    It’s all a bit mad, and there’s just no way of telling how it’ll all pan out.

    Overall, the PDs will get somewhere between 2 and 5, I think. The 2 O’Malleys, Parlon and Mae Sexton appear to be dead ducks. There are no credible gains anywhere that I can see. If there’s no visible improvement in Health Harney could suffer a backlash. DSE is notoriously fickle, and McDowell has never managed to hold his seat 2 elections running. The PDs could be reduced to Grealish and St Liz….or even wiped out altogether!

  • Tochais Siorai

    10-3 FF/Lab. It’s the value bet at the moment as it’s more likely than the other options to achieve a majority. SF won’t get near 16 but prob will get enough to hold a balance and Rabbitte with his visceral dislike of SF will quickly overcome his objections to FF.

  • Cataegus


    “Rabbitte with his visceral dislike of SF”

    Which political party south of the border likes SF?

  • Cataegus

    “Interestingly, the rank and file of the party have voted to back the leadership’s refusal to enter a pre-election pact with Fianna Fail”.

    A small party on 4% cannot enter a pact with a larger one as it is then unambiguously endorsing that party. Why vote PD when they endorse FF, why not simply vote FF? It may state a preference, but to go the whole hog risks assimilation and reduces post election wriggle room. It also blurs the identity of the party and makes it harder to brand itself in an election. Same reasons I imagine why Greens are a bit stand offish.

  • elfinto

    It’s maybe a bit more personal with Rabbitte as he was formerly a member of (Official) Sinn Féin. I’m sure he has a few memories of the bitter feuds of the 1970s.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Exactly, Elfinto. And it’s not just Rabbitte –
    De Rossa, Gilmour, Mc Manus are all ex-
    stickies. Emmett Stagg (brother of Hunger striker Frank) hates the Provos as well.

  • Cataegus

    So you reap what you sow. Violence has consequences that comes back to haunt you?