The 30th Dáil: the end of the affair?

As the lengthy Dáil summer gives way to a new session that is largely a preamble to the next budget on December 7th, there are ominous signs of unease from a government whose electors are gripped by a palpable fear and loathing of what havoc the electorate are going to wreak upon them when finally given the opportunity.

The arithmetic of the current Dáil Éireann sees the government supported by 70 FF, 6 Greens and a ramshackle coalition of 8 ‘independents’ largely drawn from the wider FF gene pool (as well as ex-FG Michael Lowry). Their 84 votes plus the deciding vote of the Ceann Comhairle are enough to retain a majority of the 166 seats, although Mattie McGrath’s commitment is wavering. How far the Greens are from the next Dan Boyle tweet is always unclear but that nuclear threat seems to have been averted by the fear of mutually assured destruction at the polls.

On the opposition side are 51 FG, 20 Lab, 4 SF and 3 Independents that now include Noel Grealish who recently withdrew his support for the government. A mere 78 opposition TDs is insufficient to bring down the coalition. But there are also 3 Dáil vacancies that seem unlikely to be filled by supporters of a government that has been evading the necessary by-elections as long as is constitutionally possible (i.e. forever). The removal of goodwill from the oppposition may finally force this particular issue.

There are also open threats of rebellion from within the wider governing coalition as the narrowing majority is amplifying the role individual TDs are playing in keeping the government in power. As Tipp O’Neill’s father told him – all politics is local. Those that might believe that public dissent may give them some chances of re-election are largely demurring over issues around healthcare at constituency level rather than over any issue of national importance.

Other unexpected threats may also materialise: Willie O’Dea, who basically resigned over a breach of the Electoral Abuses Act, may still be charged under the same Act and thus de-barred from the Oireachtas for five years. Bizarrely, since settling his court case was an effective admission of this, the failure to prosecute looks purely political. A prosecution seems increasingly unlikely with the passage of time, though.

So, the not unlikely scenarios of a withdrawl of Mattie McGrath’s support and pre-Christmas by-elections could bring the government’s majority to a mere 183-182, solely relying on those Independents who traditionally require their local parish pump to be heavily primed (when such funds are now unavailable). So oddly, a government whose true legacy will become known when the final multi-multi-billion cost of Anglo Irish Bank is revealed, will most likely fall over a failure to spend a few million on some small regional hospital.

The end, as with the politics, will be local. Ultimately, is this an argument for or against electing independents?

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  • Seymour Major

    Independents dilute the strength of Government.

    What Ireland now badly needs is a strong government with a plan to deal with the national objective of breaking out of the Sovereigh debt crisis. The people would buy into such a plan.

    Ideally, Cowan would resign and a new FF leader to bring FG into a coalition Government of National Unity. I guess that is the stuff of fantasy.

  • Anon

    Why would FG go into such a coalition. If you want a strong government, force an election and let FF take their medicine. Providing cover seems like complete madness.

  • David

    are there 3 vacancies? I thought only 1 seat was left (Pat “The Cope’s”)? Seamus Brennan and Tony Gregory were succeeded by George Lee and Maureen O sullivan on June 5th or am I wrong?

  • The other two vacancies were created by the resignations of George Lee and Martin Cullen.

  • Greenflag

    Seymour ,

    ‘with a plan to deal with the national objective of breaking out of the Sovereigh debt crisis. The people would buy into such a plan.’

    Indeed . The major stumbling block is the ‘banks won’t’ .And while it may seem as if it’s the people who elect the government to rule in the people’s interest in practice it is the ‘banks ‘ who tell the government what they can and can’t do .

    And Ireland is not alone in that position .It’s just that Ireland is of a convenient ‘size’ for the international money men to make an example of -just in case some of the larger EU countries start getting a bit bolshie 🙁

  • Greenflag

    Not holding any of the three by elections has been just the most visible sign of the Government’s weakness . It can’t go on . I’m unsure if there has been any precedent for not holding a by election much less three for such a long period ?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    I agree with SM there should be a government of National unity.

    After all Fine Gael had feck all to say – except about stamp duty when the economy was racing up the economic cliff it was about to fall off and there should therefore be a National Government so that the Plain People of Ireland can be assured that the issues are debated properly and on their behalf rather than on behalf of the bunch-of-nitwit-pocket-lining-gombeen-post-civil-war-duopoly-of incompetent-feckers-FecklessFail-and-FecklessGael.

  • I wonder how much “garglegate” will have aggrevated the situation. It seams that the jokers wont leave Brian alone

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I’m not sure – the Plain People of Ireland appear to have an unquenchable thirst for, and a strong cultrural tradition of, getting some down their throats – and indeed understanding those who are wont to over indulgence.

    … and not good for the national image if the leader was to fall/ be pushed off his perch simply because he had a few.

  • Wilde Rover

    John Ó Néill,

    “So oddly, a government whose true legacy will become known when the final multi-multi-billion cost of Anglo Irish Bank is revealed, will most likely fall over a failure to spend a few million on some small regional hospital.”

    Well put.

    Yet another pyrrhic victory of the micro of the parish pump over the macro of the nation. Legislators are what’s needed, not fixers for fiefdoms.

  • Munsterview


    Cannot agree ! Surprisingly I find most of the criticism of the Drinking Peoples Party is coming from friends and acquaintances I know who themselves are no slouches when it comes to lowering a pint glass themselves.

    I suspect that the DPP is in far more trouble that the polls show; contrary to poplar perceptions quite a few of the party fait-full are absolutely disgusted at what the suits have done to the party. As one grass roots said to me some weeks ago….. the ‘F’rs know what they did to the party and the country and they can suffer for it now !

    It seems to me from my soundings that now that they are resigned to loosing since it will not matter in cash flow or material change who wins, few will work against the party but fewer still will do much to prevent or blunt the trouncing that will be inflicted on the great or good of the party.

    Those who vote, will consider their votes ‘loan votes’….. they will in the main go to labor because it would be a bridge too far to vote Fine Gael and any gains Sinn Fein make are not easily taken back. These party members when polled are still pro FF but when in the privacy of the Booth they will not do the business for the Drinking Peoples Party.

    I am only surprised labor showing is not even stronger that it is and Labors own unpublished polls are probably showing an even better and brighter picture !

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I have no time for Feckless Fail or Feckless Gael but just dont think the Plain People of Ireland will be too worried if the teashop has a few to many.

    He will be sunk not for what he drunk but becuase his party (cheered on by FG ) pissed the nations wealth up against a wall.

  • Munsterview

    Not a few drinks per se, no ! The pissed off factor for the party grass roots comes from the fact that a) the party see nothing wrong in having a party, b ) that the seniors and handlers were seen to be incompetent when hit with media fallout and c) that if they could not foreseen the problem before and dealt with it after, how can they be trusted with the economy ?

    Let me directly quote you the closing remarks of a phone call on the subject to me ” Tis one thing doing that sort of thing the night before when your looking up a cows arse in the morning, it is another thing doing it when you know that you will be facing fifty to eighty hoors out to gut you every chance they get”

    There is the Dublin 4 sophistication v the country boys tut,tutting and sadly rolled eyes to heaven etc but the real issue for the grass roots is not drink per se, but that Cowen, his circle and the HQ people are to again quote the source ………….” a bigger laughing stock than Kenny and his crowd and they have no bloody right to do that to the party or the country”

    In short the FF Cumman ( branch) members no longer see Cowen and most of those at the top of having having the smarts, the cuteness or the stroke pulling ability that the party expects those in a leadership to have !