Dara Calleary has been telling RTE that next weekend’s Ard Fheis will be tough, but despite much comment in the media regarding SF boost in the Sunday Times poll, he’s clear that the party’s real target is Fine Gael… Not surprising if you look at a basket of key constituencies across the state…
Currently in Calleary’s Mayo constituency, FF is the only party within a whisker of taking back another out of the five seater. In Cavan-Monaghan, they lost two of their previous three to FG (although, SF may be in the running there next time out since Senator Kathrine Reilly is clearly being groomed for another go)…
And there’s basket of others, like Clare, Kildare North, Carlow-Kilkenny and Roscommon around the country where the largest slice of new territory is likely to come from the Blueshirts, if anywhere at all. As things stand now, up to four years out from the next election the fight with Sinn Fein, if it comes, will likely come after.
The main two opposition parties will/should not waste their energies fighting one another. For now the government is their main target. Both will have to ride their luck in the meantime. Fianna Fail’s best hope may be hooked on how soon the Irish public forgive and forget the mess bequeathed by the bank guarantee loan.
That very much relies on how well or how badly the coalition steer the ship of state through some very stormy waters. And therein lies Fianna Fail’s current dilemma. The course set by Captain Enda and First Mate Eamon is remarkably similar to the one previous crew was attempting to set.
Today’s editorial from the Irish Independent is one of the sharpest pieces of analysis on this complex rubic cube of a puzzle:
In percentage terms, then, Labour is the biggest loser. But Sinn Fein remains the biggest gainer, and the implications are profound — especially for Fianna Fail.
The once-dominant party has made almost nothing of any opportunities that have presented themselves over the past year. Its reputation remains on the floor. It will take much more than a year to shake off that fatal tag — the party that wrecked the economy.
Sinn Fein, meanwhile, has seized every opportunity. It has ruthlessly exploited every issue. Several of its deputies have emerged as competent performers. Now its ambition to supersede Fianna Fail has been given a new plausibility.
On the Government side, Fine Gael’s loss of a mere four percentage points — from a record election result — must be regarded as an astonishing achievement.
The explanations are simple: one, the lack of alternatives; two, the remarkable performance of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. And there is a third consideration. Labour has failed to pull its weight in the coalition. Former stars have faded, and there is as yet little or no evidence of substantial progress on public spending and reform.
Sceptics will ask whether Labour is doomed to collapse after every one of its coalition experiments. From the point of view of the wider society, however, the fate of Fianna Fail matters much more.
So at the weekend:
Micheal Martin will have his chance to persuade the faithful — and the country — that Fianna Fail has a future. He cannot do that by weak and vague appeals to the past.
But in one respect, he needs to go back to the past. His party is notorious for refusing to apologise; refusing to admit, to itself or anyone else, that it has done anything wrong.
This time, a sincere and comprehensive apology could work wonders.
No pressure then, in front of what’s expected to be 3,000 party delegates then?
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