Mary Lou to battle for her party’s life in European elections?

In his Irish Examiner column, Stephen King casts an eye over last week’s poll data and reckons that Sinn Fein is facing nothing less than its own Stalingrad south of the border:

The leadership’s response is a rare revamp of the frontbench. Donegal-based West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty, vice-president since John Joe McGirl’s death in 1988 — and just three years Gerry Adams’s senior — has been put out to grass.

In his place, in a tacit admission that the party needs to build support outside Ulster, the members will be asked — or told — to approve the nomination of Mary Lou McDonald. Not bad for a 39-year-old who was in Fianna Fáil only a few years back. Bonus — no-one accuses her of ever having sat on the IRA army council.

In other circumstances, Gerry Adams might be applauded for putting some distance between the party and its paramilitary roots. The painful reality, though, is that every single stop has to be pulled out to save Mary Lou’s European seat. If she were to lose it, as she did the battle in Dublin Central in 2007, the grey beards might conclude she has the smell of political death about her. Don’t bet on another 21-year stint as vice-president.

For once, the party is being brutally honest about its prospects. “Our objective is to retain the two seats that we hold,” Adams confesses. With three serious unionist candidates running in the North, Bairbre de Brún will walk home, possibly topping the poll. For Mary Lou, though, it’s an uphill battle, compounded by the fact that the constituency is shrinking from a four-seater to a three-seater. There’s a Fine Gael seat and, more than likely, a Fianna Fáil seat, although if their 13% poll rating is reflected in real votes, nothing can be taken for granted.

That leaves one more to fill and if Labour is doing as well as some polls suggest, that could mean curtains for Mary Lou. She will have to milk her status as the strongest anti-Lisbon candidate for all it’s worth — at a time when being anti-Lisbon isn’t as fashionable as it was a few months back.

Curtains for Mary Lou, of course, means curtains for Sinn Féin’s hopes of being anything more than a bit player on the Southern scene for years to come. Dublin really will be Stalingrad for the 26-county operation.

,

  • kensei

    Read this yesterday and it’s complete hyperbole. The loss of Mary Lou’s seat (which on balance with the reduction form 4 seats to 3, they have always been odds-on to lose) will have little impact in comparison with the damage that was done in the last general election. They are bit players before the Euros, and they’ll be bit players after.

    Also, as general rule: disregard almost anything that says a party will be wiped out forever, because forever is a long time and politics is a very changeable game. A few short years ago people pondered if the Tories could ever win another general election, and now thye are 20 points ahead in the polls. Occasionally it happens, with the PDs but the ultimate destruction was their own choice.

  • Agree with Kensei. And that warning applies to some of the more ridiculous responses to FF’s current problems.

  • Mick Fealty

    I would agree too, if King had actually said they would be wiped out. He has been a great deal more careful than that. Though, I’d perhaps have left Stalingrad on the back burner unil the next Dail elections rather than this Euro one.

    It may have been my slightly over weaning headline that gave that impression. For which, my apologies. Alternative suggestions welcome!!

    A good analysis on where the council reps stand would give us a better view of the party’s real strength on the ground.

    But what struck me about King’s take was that promoting someone as talented, personable and new SF as Mary Lou was the right idea, but she’s not likely to get her just rewards.

    Regardless of whether she loses the seats voting patterns nonetheless will give us an indication of whether Sean Crowe could get back in again (he’s still making appearances on national radio) or Aengus can retain his seat by something more than the thin thread he managed last time.

    But it is Labour’s success – they seem to be pulling successfully at that flank of FF voters that are being targeted by SF – that could the more important factor here. If they maintain sufficient sufficient momentum to get an MEP in, then SF may consider their chance of keeping parliamentary presence in Dublin well and truly stuffed.

  • My reading of MLM’s chances is that it depends on 2 imponderables – will FF really get 13%? Because if they do, she’s in with a good shot, considering she won 14% in 2004 and got the last seat. However, in European elections down here, personal-votes are also important, and in that context the TNS-MRBI poll may not be telling us the whole story – not least when you consider the impact of the decline in the sample-size when breaking the poll down to regional-samples – and the consequent increase that must be factored in in terms of the margin-of-error. As an adamant opponent of the Lisbon Treaty, I am rooting for her in the context of the need to have at least someone in our cohort of MEPs that isn’t a yesman. In that context I call on all no voters to Lisbon to vote MLM in the June elections. On the broader question of the relevance of the Euro elections to SF’s prospects, I don’t fully share SK’s perspective. 3-seaters are notoriously difficult for small parties to win, and MLM won the last seat in 2004. In Dail elections, there will be plenty of 4-5 seaters the party will stand a better chance in, though the influence of the big parties on the process of delineating constituency-boundaries will probably act as something of a glass-ceiling on the progress the party can make in its areas of strength, notably with respect to Donegal. I still believe the party – of which I am not a supporter in the national-scene – has a longterm future provided it doesn’t go into govt with FF – that promiscuous Mata Hari of Irish politics that infects those who get into bed with it. The fate of the PDs and possibly the Greens (June will be a pointer on this – but remember how FF recovered in 2007 after a meltdown in 2004) may act as a brake on a Coalition between FF and SF, not least given that the party’s appeal is largely to an anti-Establishment, former Workers Party/DL constituency that may regard FF as a culprit of, rather than an answer to, the perceived failings of that Establishment. The market-meltdown has been a godsend for critics of capitalism on the Left – wrongly in my view. Another story could be told as to the responsibility of leftwing-inspired regulations in the US, such as the Community Reinvestment Act 1977/95, in helping create the subprime crisis by forcing financial-institutions to accept subprime borrowers simply because a disproportionate number of them came from ethnic-minority backgrounds. Non-compliant financial-institutions were fined. This is the dirty little secret of the Left, but in the absence of a media that is doing its job and being the people’s tribune, holding Left and Right to account, the market is there for the taking for the Left. It would seem reasonable to assume in that context, that the rising tide should lift Sinn Féin’s boats – even if only a little. But for the party to capitalise on that the party will need a “southernisation” of its image down here, and the gradual removal of the taint of terrorism and criminality. On 9% – roughly where they were before the disappointing 7% of 2007 – I can see them at the very least holding on to where they are now.

  • Dewi

    Strange SF have given up on North West – strong performance last time and vote held up in General Election IIRC. Surely not wise to concede without a fight.

  • Dewi

    On that point struggling to find the transfer details in 2004. Any suggestions?

  • Dewy I was not aware that they had? Source?

  • fair_deal

    BB

    “such as the Community Reinvestment Act 1977/95, in helping create the subprime crisis by forcing financial-institutions to accept subprime borrowers simply because a disproportionate number of them came from ethnic-minority backgrounds. Non-compliant financial-institutions were fined.”

    That claim was floating about but there seems to be no emperical evidence to back it up.
    “However, others dispute the involvement of the CRA in the crisis. San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank Governor Randall Kroszner has stated that no empirical evidence had been presented to support the claim that “the law pushed banking institutions to undertake high-risk mortgage lending”.[56] In a Bank for International Settlements (“BIS”) working paper, economist Luci Ellis concluded that “there is no evidence that the Community Reinvestment Act was responsible for encouraging the subprime lending boom and subsequent housing bust,” relying partly on evidence that the housing bust has been a largely exurban event.[61] Others have also concluded that the CRA did not contribute to the current financial crisis, for example, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair,[62] Comptroller of the Currency John C. Dugan,[63] Tim Westrich of the Center for American Progress,[64] Robert Gordon of the American Prospect,[65] Daniel Gross of Slate, and Aaron Pressman from BusinessWeek.[66]

    Some legal and financial experts note that CRA regulated loans tend to be safe and profitable, and that subprime excesses came mainly from institutions not regulated by the CRA. In the February 2008 House hearing, law professor Michael S. Barr, a Treasury Department official under President Clinton,[67][34] stated that a Federal Reserve survey showed that affected institutions considered CRA loans profitable and not overly risky. He noted that approximately 50% of the subprime loans were made by independent mortgage companies that were not regulated by the CRA, and another 25% to 30% came from only partially CRA regulated bank subsidiaries and affiliates. Barr noted that institutions fully regulated by CRA made “perhaps one in four” sub-prime loans, and that “the worst and most widespread abuses occurred in the institutions with the least federal oversight”.[68] According to Janet L. Yellen, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, independent mortgage companies made risky “high-priced loans” at more than twice the rate of the banks and thrifts; most CRA loans were responsibly made, and were not the higher-priced loans that have contributed to the current crisis.[69] A 2008 study by Traiger & Hinckley LLP, a law firm that counsels financial institutions on CRA compliance, found that CRA regulated institutions were less likely to make subprime loans, and when they did the interest rates were lower. CRA banks were also half as likely to resell the loans.[70] Emre Ergungor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland found that there was no statistical difference in foreclosure rates between regulated and less-regulated banks, although a local bank presence resulted in fewer foreclosures.[71]”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act#Predatory_Lending

  • kensei

    Mick

    I would agree too, if King had actually said they would be wiped out. He has been a great deal more careful than that. Though, I’d perhaps have left Stalingrad on the back burner unil the next Dail elections rather than this Euro one.

    He was, but at the same time I think he overegged it.

    Regardless of whether she loses the seats voting patterns nonetheless will give us an indication of whether Sean Crowe could get back in again (he’s still making appearances on national radio) or Aengus can retain his seat by something more than the thin thread he managed last time.

    I’m not sure it is wise to project a general election from the Europeans. And it is also Dublin centric — it is not entirely beyond the bounds of reason that SF could lose two Dublin seats and make comparable gains in Donegal.

    Also note, if there is a big swing to Labour and FG, SF could double their representation and still remain irrelevant. There are a lot of imponderables here.

    But it is Labour’s success – they seem to be pulling successfully at that flank of FF voters that are being targeted by SF – that could the more important factor here. If they maintain sufficient sufficient momentum to get an MEP in, then SF may consider their chance of keeping parliamentary presence in Dublin well and truly stuffed.

    It depends on the transfer situation and there is a lot of possible outcomes. Personally a reckon it’ll take a change of leadership, younger and more Southern focused for SF to get over their tansfer problems. But at 8-10% of the vote they should hold at least some Dail representation.

  • People – and I include myself among them – who believe SF may not do so well at the European and Local elections may in fact be doing SF a favour. Lower expectations and then any successful defence, by however slim a thread, can be painted as a success beyond measure.

    I do feel that SF are not at the races in terms of the national debate on the airwaves and that may tell against them.

    It seems to me that with the DUP-SF administration in power in the North, the one big issue that SF has still has been relegated down the list of priorities and their ineffectiveness in recent months hasn’t helped.

    The only decent story that SF have been attached to in recent weeks has been the entire Aengus Ó Snodaigh affair where he used ‘nazi’ and ‘Israeli attacks on Palestinians’ in the same sentence and ended up being pilloried by the Dáil Foreign Affairs committee.

    Sinn Féin has to remember that its constituency isn’t the bankers and multinationals they were chasing after at the last election. They’ve forgotten who they represent….and until they remember, they run the risk of being forgotten in turn come election time.

  • Dewi

    “I was not aware that they had? Source?”

    Only the below from the article Brian.

    ““Our objective is to retain the two seats that we hold,” Adams confesses”

  • Brian,

    I know a lot of people say the PSF vote is the old WP one, but if you look where the PSF seats are, that is not the case. They are old traditional FF nationalist type seats, which The WP ones weren’t. So I think it is right of Mick to say they are fishing in FF waters.

  • Paddy Matthews

    For Mary Lou, though, it’s an uphill battle, compounded by the fact that the constituency is shrinking from a four-seater to a three-seater. There’s a Fine Gael seat and, more than likely, a Fianna Fáil seat, although if their 13% poll rating is reflected in real votes, nothing can be taken for granted.

    That leaves one more to fill and if Labour is doing as well as some polls suggest, that could mean curtains for Mary Lou.

    There’s a Fine Gael seat, and there’s pretty certainly a Labour seat on current form, Mick.

    I am very skeptical – and have been for a while – that there’s more than a 50% chance of a Fianna Fáil seat in Dublin in the European elections. Probably less.

    Last time out, Fianna Fáil had 23% of the vote, and Eoin Ryan made it home just over the quota with transfers from his eliminated running mate. The bar to cross has now been raised from 20% to 25%.

    Fianna Fáil are an order of magnitude more unpopular now than they were in 2004. In 2004, voters were cheesed off with Charlie McCreevy’s introduction of spending “adjustments” after playing Lord Bountiful prior to the 2002 election, but the economy was not in freefall as it is now, with Fianna Fáil ministers musing about cuts in the minimum wage at the same time as Seánie Fitzpatrick walks away from the mess he landed us in at Anglo-Irish Bank with a €500K p.a. pension.

    There are a number of uncertainties in the MRBI poll mentioned above – undecided voters are included in the regional samples, which themselves will have a larger margin of error because of their size – but I’d be amazed if FF are on more than 18% of the vote in the local elections in Dublin this summer (in 2004 it was 23.8%) and I’d expect Ryan to run a bit behind even that – a “soft” protest voter is more likely to kick a European candidate than the local man/woman who they may know and consider to be a decent sort personally.

    Mitchell and de Rossa are safe. McDonald will be fighting it out for the last seat with Ryan and the destination will be decided by the voters deciding which is least transfer-toxic. Fianna Fáilers look pretty toxic at the moment.

  • Dublin voter

    Brian,

    I know a lot of people say the PSF vote is the old WP one, but if you look where the PSF seats are, that is not the case. They are old traditional FF nationalist type seats, which The WP ones weren’t. So I think it is right of Mick to say they are fishing in FF waters.

    Posted by Garibaldy on Feb 19, 2009 @ 10:07 PM

    I don’t agree Garibaldy. The PSF vote in Dublin comes from the same section of society that the WP vote came from in the 80s i.e. largely working class communities in local authority housing. The reason the seats were won in both cases is that both parties put in the work on the ground in those constituencies – work on the ground in terms of clientelist, pro-community hard graft. It has very, very little to do with nationalism or the national question because those issues are not the issues that people in Dublin vote on. They vote on day to day issues, mainly on which candidate works harder for them on the ground. So a huge number of people who voted for De Rossa of WP in Finglas in the eighties now vote for Ellis of SF in the noughties. It is the same vote.