Launched close to the end of the general election campaign, Fine Gael’s five point plan may effectively become a checklist of things Fine Gael won’t do in government. Despite a bit of brinksmanship, Labour’s involvement in government may be only the tiniest bit in doubt (well, as of 8 pm this evening), so some component of the five point plan will inevitably fall by the wayside in an agreed programme for government.
At the same time, the recent noises from Barroso and Merkel both suggest that the pre-election photo-ops were little more than optical exercises in the taoiseachification of Enda. The possibility that they were getting their favoured candidate into the post, and what that might mean, was not really considered by the mainstream Irish media.
Another of the five points may take a hammering once the Taoiseach’s nominees for the Seanad are announced. Given that much of the professed interest in political reform focused on the Seanad (as if somehow, and paradoxically, it was at the root of all failures), the eleven nominations to the upper house have generally been rewarded cronies and future election candidates rather than appointees who were chosen for their capacity to make a constructive contribution.
For those who need an electoral fix before the Assembly elections, Eoin Ó Broin, who narrowly missed out on a Dáil seat in Dublin Mid-West, will be contesting the NUI Seanad panel for Sinn Féin. Given the peculiar cirumstances of the NUI panel – the electors are all the National University of Ireland graduates (increasing numbers of whom were conferred by the associated colleges in recent years) – a significant number of registered voters will have emigrated over the last two to three years. Since postal votes are not allowed in Dáil elections, there was a sense of disenfranchisement amongst the Irish diaspora which included a simulated on-line election (interestingly for Ó Broin, Sinn Féin achieved 23 in the simulated election rather than the actual 14 seats). As postal voting is the method for elections to the NUI panel, it will be interesting to see how many graduates check the register, organise their votes, and decide to make a statement about their attitudes to those in the lower house. Ballot papers are sent out on 21st March and must be returned by 27th April, so registered electors have plenty of time to receive and return their vote. Whatever the actual chances, the significance of Sinn Féin taking a seat on the NUI panel would be fairly obvious in signposting the party’s potential to grow it’s vote.
Needless to say, Ó Broin, a Sinn Féin policy analyst and editor of Irish Left Review, isn’t likely to be among the eleven nominated by Enda Kenny, or Barroso, or Merkel.