#GE11 Profile: Labour now the second largest party in the State…

And by some way. Dublin North West has two Labour seats and one that’s newly Sinn Fein. No Fianna Fail TD for the first time since the 1920s. There are a further two in Dublin South Central. And Ann Phelan took the first seat in Carlow Kilkenny (you can pick up my RTE Audio Boo interview with her here). And in Galway East, they’ll pick up a seat for the first time ever.

The Gilmore for Taoiseach posters aside, this is a great leap forward for Labour and the Irish left in general. If it were not for the current political institutions, it could have the  capacity to re-align Irish politics from the duopoly of competing Woolworths stores of the past to something akin to ideological blocs.

But there are difficulties ahead, not least the level of irreducible debt. Whilst Labour seek to fast track into government, everyone else will be where the left so often likes to be, in opposition. The new Left independents (incorporating three members of the Socialist party) may come in just short of a technical group, but they will be looking to make Labour uncomfortable in the age of even greater austerity.

They will be the junior partner (traditionally, the ‘mudguard’ role) in a government that has to make some pretty tough decisions, for which they will almost certainly be derided by their colleagues in wider left.

It remains to be seen how that arrangement will work. It may go without saying that Fine Gael are not Fianna Fail. And Enda Kenny is not Brian Cowen. But they will have to find a way to marry the back to back promises they each made to different audiences.

As Pete noted earlier from the Cedar Lounge Revolution:

Whether on the levels that count it will make any great difference as we emerge from our three week holiday from the economic situation is a different matter.

Both Labour and Fine Gael seem confident a deal can be put together in short enough order to get the new Government up and working by the end of the week, then it will be eyes down for the new programme for government.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty