Quick everyone, get Sean Gallagher (although it may already be too late)…

Here’s the latest from the #Aras11 horse race. It seems the, erm, Independent candidate for Sinn Fein (aka, the firmly established once and future Deputy First Minister), is accusing another Independent candidate of, erm, not being Independent.

There is some grist to that mill, of course… Thanks to Suzy for this clip of Gallagher speaking at a meeting of Fianna Fail Ogra at Queens in Belfast (along with, it has to be said, with the likes of Elaine Byrne, who is not suspected of links – either current or past – with the former party of government):

Nothing makes Fianna Failer’s more nervous than a too insistent assertion that Gallagher is their ‘dog without a collar’. And in part they are right to protest. His surge in the polls is not a reconstitution of the Fianna Fail vote. He’s pulling people in from all over the place, Fine Gaelers included.

One lesson we might take from all of this, is that it was Fianna Fail voters who put the Fianna Fail parliamentary dog out in the cold, with the reverberative instruction not to come back in until it learns not to soil its own bed.

A old fashioned form of tough rural love, you might say.

That Higgins (and Mitchell) have now been forced onto the attack shows how seriously they now take Gallagher’s bid. His ‘rookie’s mistake’ of not putting posters up all over the shop may not have worked for a conventional politician. But Gallagher, however closely associated with FF he might be, is not seen by the public as a politician.

And that begins to look like his primary card in the next two weeks. His refusal of a deal from Michael D over the next political debate, will help cement his non politician credentials in the Irish public mind.

Fundamentally though, it shows not only is there life in the FF gene pool, but that that FF gene pool has not been significantly tempted by the siren songs of Fianna Fail’s political rivals.

That’s bad news for Sinn Fein’s kitchen sink strategy, and Fine Gael, who should have been walking home to their first ever term in the Aras in this election.

Returning briefly to the problem we started with, ie that of independents who aren’t, there is just no doubt Gallagher is gene pool Fianna Fail. You don’t even need to know he was on the national executive until recently to believe that.

But structurally, it is much less difficult to imagine that Gallagher’s machine is substantially his own asset, run and paid for by his own campaign, than it is to believe that Martin’s entourage is any different to those who remain constantly at his side in what ever election, in whichever jurisdiction he choses to run.

Higgins’ problem is that he’s maxed out on the urban Labour vote. And he’s not likely to get much more help from a FG base that’s spent most of this campaign grazing on other non party pastures. Making Gallagher’s youth/inexperience an issue is also something of a chancey game of Russian roulette for him and Mitchell.

McGuinness’ problem is the same one he came in with: what’s his relevance in a polity who’s preoccupations could not be more different from the one he clearly feels at home with back in Ulster?

And someone should have warned him that the Dublin Press’s favourite diet is politician on toast (just ask former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan for an unbiased view on that matter). Killing a Deputy First Minister over his unwillingness to level with the Irish people about the true nature of his past sells newspapers, and stacks up the listeners and viewers in their tens of thousands.

And contrary to the common wisdom in Northern Ireland, developing such aggressive and dysfunctional relationship with the Irish media is unlikely to do the party any favours when the presidential ballots are counted.

This, in my view, is less to do with a media as yet unreconciled to the historical determinism of the Belfast Agreement, so much as business as it is normally conducted within the democratic space.

Peace process based strategies apply only to Northern Ireland. The IRA’s campaign had little purchase south of the border. The state’s joint bulwark was An Garda Siochana and Oglaigh na hEireann.

That may be why last week McGuinness’s confrontation with the soldier’s son may have had a disproportionately negative effect on his campaign over and above the sheer weight of numbers of victims (living as well as dead) from thirty years of trouble in Northern Ireland.

Whether he makes the 12.5% needed to save his deposit or even substantially better than that, Mr McGuinness will have a lot more to consider other than the tell tale trails of sympathy found in a depth analysis of individual ballot boxes.

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  • Drumlins Rock

    Mick, do you think a Sean Gallagher close second could lead to a new party formation? if he wins he is out of practical politics obviously, but second could see him to establish a clone of FF, not somthing SF would relish I would think.
    BTW if Marty loses his deposit it will very bad, the small increase in percentage will be irrelvant.

  • PaulT

    Mick, yourself and slugger are a wee bit all over the place on this. Firstly everyone knows MMcG is a member of SF, Sean has been caught out telling porkies about his membership of FF.

    Also, this election is for President, its non-political, a fact that seems lost on Slugger, and indeed on some candidates.

    MMcG has campaigned on Jobs and bridgebuilding, not seen much on a united Ireland during the debates. Indeed his posters say ‘The Peoples’ President’ not the UI Pres, and not sure if you caught it, but Gay is the one that’s ventured furtherest into UI not MMcG by suggesting a joint head of State for NI.

    By far and away the best coverage of all this is on P.ie, they have the posters and its very much home territory for them.

    Just to add, again on P.ie there appears to be a backlash forming at the constant wheeling out of victims during elections only for them to be cast aside later.

  • Mick Fealty


    Welcome back. Just remember, engaged comment is always welcome here. Political trolling is not.

  • stewart1

    ‘By far and away the best coverage of all this is on P.ie, they have the posters and its very much home territory for them.’

    Indeed it’s great fun reading P.ie at the moment, FFer’s coming out of the closet to support Gallagher, FGer’s supporting Higgins, Shinners ranting about the media, etc…

    Nothing of interest here on slugger at the moment regarding the election, apart from the odd excellent post from John O’Neill. The rest is just the usual agenda driven drivel.

  • HeinzGuderian

    One wonders why ‘you chaps’ dropped by then ?

    I seem to remember when the ex DFM was announced as running for irish president,it was hailed as a master stroke by sf strategists.
    At the time I,amongst others,pointed out the short fuse on marty’s temperament,and I awaited with glee,the moment when the mask slipped.
    Took a week or Two,but slip it did.
    Spot the shinner cheerleaders,scrambling to put it back into place.
    Listen to the increasingly high pitched voices of outrage at the questioning of mertin.
    Relish,if you will,the prospect of complete,abysmal failure.

    Worry ye not though,they should be well used to it by now !! 🙂

  • Mick Fealty


    Why would he spoil a good thing by becoming the very thing that he’s apparently not; allowing him to pull sympathy from across the political piste?

    The best you can say about these figures is that whilst FF may not be allowed back in the house just yet, no one has yet snaffled their base. So where’s the need for a clone?

    Stew, thanks for doing us the honour of passing through…

  • Harry Flashman

    “The best you can say about these figures is that whilst FF may not be allowed back in the house just yet, no one has yet snaffled their base.”

    FF are like the British Tories, you write them off at your peril, by mid-decade they will once again be the most popular party in the Republic.

    What was it the Cruiser used to say about the demise of one particular FF leader? Something about waiting to see him buried at the crossroads at midnight with a stake through his heart, the same applies to the party in general.

    They’ll be back, bigger than ever.

  • While the addition of McG added a bit of rough to the race, once the initial hubris dies down and the democratic thrust of open elections gets going blah blah things become more settled. Two weeks to go and it will be interesting to see what happens in those two weeks. In a field of seven we now have the fourth frontrunner/one to beat.

    For those betting on this one – might have done if I had £150 to bet with – you might as well have been blindfolded and stuck a pin on the list.

  • Coll Ciotach

    The toxicity of FF seems to be over estimated by the pundits. Not only is Gallagher doing well but so to is their man in Dublin West if the reports are anything to go by.

    Is it a case of the Republic’s electorate realising the fact that the got what they voted for and they will pay the price for profligacy no matter who is in charge?

  • Alias

    “Also, this election is for President, its non-political, a fact that seems lost on Slugger, and indeed on some candidates.” – PaulT

    Probably because it is an ignorant fiction, not a fact. The Presidency is a troika of the Oireachtas, and the head of state. It is a political office.

  • Alias

    Sean Gallagher is his own man. He is no different than other former FF supporters who have lost faith in the party. That common bond with the floating FF is part of his appeal to it.

  • Mick Fealty


    DubW IS fascinating. The Dissenter’s maxim is even more apt there. I make it four possible winners there: FG/FF/SF/SP.

    On the FF thing, I suspect it’s much deeper wired than that. Last summer I spoke to a middle aged life long party woman.

    She was just plain gutted at the way her own party had behaved in government. And whilst she was fine telling me about how she bitter she felt, she snapped back into life when I had the temerity to actually agree with her.

    I can only conclude it’s something akin to a family thing. “I can talk all I want about the useless feckers, but I’m damned if I’m going to sit here and listen to you slagging them off!”

  • redhugh78

    ‘Quick everyone get Sean Gallagher….but end up returning to get Martin Mc Guinness’ how predictable.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I make it four possible winners there: FG/FF/SF/SP.

    You have Labour going from first to fifth?

  • Mick Fealty


    Lurk, if you’re lurk. If not, then join in! You can’t have it both ways!!

  • keano10

    Bearing in mind that the latest poll was taken before last weeks highly controversial debate, I would’nt mind betting that Gallagher wont have anything like 39 per cent in the next one. I have read a number of commentators in The Southern media over the weekend who were incredulous that Gallagher is deemed to be 12 points ahead of Higgins. We will see…

    PS Does anyone know when we can expect the next poll? Thanks

  • Henry94

    If you are in Dublin West consider Brendan Doris of the People’s Convention. He was the guy who led the overthrow of the WP in USI all those years ago. Mark Durkan became his Deputy President and Joe Duffy the Education Officer. But Doris was very much the leader.

  • John Ó Néill

    I’ve been tied up elsewhere the last few days, but its fascinating to see how this plays now. Michael D’s pitch for a one-on-one with Gallagher was a serious gaffe for a candidate who moralised about others in the race. He was former minister with responsibilty for broadcasting (indeed, the last one to have Section 31 in place) he knows the regulations on equal coverage for candidates. It suggested fear rather than concern.
    Gallaghers weakness is if media talk it up as an FF recovery. Thomas Byrne was on Vincent Brown last night and wasn’t successfully avoiding that line.
    It will be interesting to see if numbers have settled in the next opinion poll. FG aren’t going to panic if Mitchell comes in under 10%, and SF will no doubt write down the result against having put their constituency machine through their paces again.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Would it not be a bit of poetic justice if SF did not reach the 12.5% quota and so have to pay their own election deposit – as opposed to Irish taxpayers paying it for them?

    Have Messrs Adams, McGuinness and other erstwhile supporters of physical force republicanism not already cost the state more than enough in security, legal and compensation costs etc?

  • Mick Fealty


    Hold that thought. At this stage, the party has a hell of job of work to do. What would worry me is the number of folk they need to get out that the machine does not yet know about.

    If the air war is not going well, that puts more emphasis on the ground troops. That their biggest body of new voters are far left and independent is reflected in Martins use of the term ‘anti establishment’ candidate. Its also what will be exercising their tacticians the most too.

    If they make deposit it will be most likely because of the ground war.

  • andnowwhat

    Was just watching the debate in TG4.

    I’ve finally found my fill level of Aras debates.

    As to the election, it still seems too soon to call it but in all honesty, the amount of dirt that’s been flung about for something that is little more than a Mr/Ms Ireland competition is astonishing and IMHO unwarrented.

    The scandal regarding Higgins has put me right off

  • Jimmy Sands

    That their biggest body of new voters are far left and independent is reflected in Martins use of the term ‘anti establishment’ candidate.

    Well it may be how some of them like to see themselves but I have a feeling the transfers on the final count will tell a different story.

  • Alias

    “Gallaghers weakness is if media talk it up as an FF recovery.”

    That’s a very sharp observation. I wonder to what extent it is the supporters of the other candidates who are raising the harbinger angle to undermine Gallagher’s transfers in particular?

    Apparently, suggesting that he is an undeclared FF candidate wasn’t damaging enough, so now it has to be suggested that support for Gallagher is tantamount to supporting an early return of FF.

    That would also damage first preferences since even those FF’ers who have lost faith think it is too early to come back into the fold and for the party itself to be forgiven.

    However, it will be forgiven if for no other reason that the pendulum swings back and forth in the natural electoral order of things, and a another big party is needed on the other side of the swing.

    The present government won’t be re-elected, so who else is there to replace them? Unless you want an unholy rag-bag of Wallaces, Mings, Shinners, and whatever else the cat drags in.

    The FF’ers will be redeemed but just not yet. So it’s not so much that people won’t vote for a FF’er but that they won’t vote for one just yet…

  • Gallagher caught in pincer movement and TG4 had to pre-record the debate as only Higgins could converse in Irish.

    Only one of the seven, Mr Higgins, is fluent in Irish. The format of the debate had each of the candidates read a short-prepared statement in Irish. The debate, chaired by current affairs presenter Páidí Ó Lionáird, was conducted mostly in English, with Mr Higgins speaking in Irish.

  • Mick Fealty

    Even that’s not a clean hit. Higgins is sitting on a raft of former FF voters . Hammer Gallagher too hard on the FF thing, and he’ll lose a bunch of votes he’ll find it hard to replace from elsewhere. I go back to the TWIP before last. Michael plays best when he says nothing at all.

  • Mick, Martin won’t be too happy with this on the bank thread: “The Northern Bank, despite the enterprising efforts of some local banditti”. He might view not so much as a Right Hook as a blow below the belt.

    “I know absolutely nothing about the robbery at the Northern Bank,” McGuinness told George Hook, before arguing that while he acknowledged his past in the IRA, he had long committed himself to the pursuit of peace.

    “How could we have done all of that… while working with leaders and Unionists?” he asked. Unionists would not have been able to work with the Republicans “if they thought we were liars and if we weren’t committed to the peace process”, he added.

    I thought Unionists entered the process in the hope of getting a hand on the levers of power?

    His candidature is not a publicity stunt to take the bad look off the PRM

    “That’s not true.. I’m in this election to win,” he asserted. “What I said from the very beginning was I would stand with the ordinary people of Ireland… what I want to be is a jobs president.”

  • HeinzGuderian

    If anw has had his fill,then dear mertin must be struggling.
    irish republicans…………….look to your Southern neighbours,and learn ……………..FFS learn !!

  • PaulT

    “Would it not be a bit of poetic justice if SF did not reach the 12.5% quota and so have to pay their own election deposit – as opposed to Irish taxpayers paying it for them?”

    Jesus wept that this statement got a ‘tick’ and told by Mick to ‘hold that thought’

    Just so you know Mick, they actually get their deposit RETURNED if they hit 12.5% of the vote.

    Also you have got the definition of ‘independent’ very wrong.

    sorry for ‘Trolling’ again (as you call being corrected) but really you need to balance your dislike of SF

  • Alias

    It won’t be a bad outcome for Northern Ireland if McGuinness does lose his deposit.

    It will become apparent to the Shinners that PIRA godfathers have no future in Irish politics beyond low-rent backbench TDs in backwoods constituencies, and that no restrospective mandate for their squalid sectarian squabble will ever be found here.

    Given that electoral progress south of the border is vital to keeping Mr Mandelson’s bicycle upright, it will also become apparent to Shinners north of the border that the time has come to rid itself of its toxic leadership or else accept that the party will never amount to anything more than a partitionist party that is only relevant north of the border.

    McGuinness will come out the election as fatally damaged goods. If the Shinners have any sense they’ll get rid of him and the rest of toxic godfathers.

  • JB, PaulT,

    You’re both wrong. There is no deposit in a presidential election. There is however a fund for campaign expenses, which may be what you are thinking of. From wikipedia:

    The spending limits in a Presidential electon were reduced in 2011. The limit is €750,000 (was €1.3 million) and the amount a candidate can be reimbursed from the State is €200,000 (was €260,000).[5] A candidate who is elected or who receives in excess of one quarter of the quota can seek reimbursement of their expenses.

  • Alias

    A quarter of the quota is 12.5% in a presidential election, not a higher sounding 25%. A nominal deposit is neither here nor there when the bill of failing to meet the quota is likely to be the price of a three-bedroomed house.

  • FuturePhysicist

    McGuinness will come out the election as fatally damaged goods. If the Shinners have any sense they’ll get rid of him and the rest of toxic godfathers.

    Maybe they are … lining up the likes of O’Dowd, Doherty, McDonald, Daithi McKay and erm well a few others to take over the current leadership come the next North and South Elections.

    The likes of Adams, McGuinness, Ó Caoláin, Gerry Kelly, Sue Ramsey, Pat Doherty, the Maskeys, De Brún, Anderson, Shennan, and hangers on like Ruane and the rest will probably be as distant from the next generation as Ruairi O’Bradaigh is from Adam’s.

  • mandrake

    Not a bad outcome……..