Ranking the winners and losers of #EUREF2012?

So before the actual result of the Referendum on the Fiscal Treaty is announced, here’s a run down of  how I think each of the parties have fared. It’s less a beauty line up, and more an attempt to grade them in terms of how they have managed to improve their positioning as a result. 

Finally, you’ll be relieved to hear, that I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. In fact, I’d welcome your own grading of the parties performances with as much or as little analysis as you’re prepared to give us.

1 – Perhaps counterintuitively, I’m giving top slot to Fianna Fail. They were far from the most prominent of the parties in play, and some rivals say they were least in evidence on the streets (of Dublin at least). If they played their campaign dead straight, it was because, with their recent history, they had to.

Yet unburdened of government responsibilities, and playing a very ‘light touch’ role in the Dail, they were by far the best prepared of all the parties for the substantive detail of this treaty debate.

Proportionate to the size of party (they’d about four times the delegates of SF at their recent Ard Fheis for instance) Martin’s parliamentary team is now tiny. But there were sound (and constitutionally literate) performances from Michael McGrath and Timmy Dooley with Marc MacSharry coming off the Seanad benches towards the end.

Crucially, it was Martin who defined what may turn out to be the key question of the campaign: “where will you get the money?”

2 – Sinn Fein have firmly established their authority as the lead oppositional voice in the state. There were increasing media mature performances from Mary Lou McDonald, Pearse Doherty, Peadar Toibin and Eoin O’Broin, with a second tranche of spokesmen like David Cullinane and Trevor O Clochartaigh holding down slots in less prominent media.

They also held something like 100 town hall type meetings in constituencies which may prove key in the next local government elections. The party’s ratings in the polls have stabilised at around 20% during the campaign.

However, their campaign was bookended by two crunching PR disasters: the poster which quoted three economists who were in fact backing a Yes vote; and a last minute judgement that ruled that major plank of their campaign was false. For this, I’m marking them down from top slot. 

Leader Gerry Adams managed to hold his own against his Labour counterpart Eamon Gilmore, but his poor grasp of detail serially let him down during set piece interviews with knowledgeable journalists.

3 – Fine Gael, like Fianna Fail before them and indeed all parties in government, tend to experience Referendums as an unnecessary disruption to important government business. It’s an occupational hazard. They tied up their loosest cannons Phil Hogan and Alan Shatter, but Noonan’s reference to Feta cheese and Richard Bruton’s ‘we’ll play it again’ gaffe showed poor concentration.

Enda’s run from Gerry (who was in turn hiding from Micheal) and the wider press generally has given rise again to low level rumbles about his qualities as a leader. Still, they along with SF will probably carry more support than any other party. For that reason they come in a comfortable third.  

They needed more Lucinda Creighton, who had a cracking campaign, and Brian Hayes, and less unnatural aggression from Simon Coveney). But if they get a Yes, they may consider themselves to have done well enough.

4 – Labour. Actually overall they had a half decent campaign with much fewer unforced errors than Fine Gael. You might quibble that Eamon Gilmore is losing his edge in debates (not least in that scoreless draw with Gerry Adams, on #TWIP I think), but it was a generally competent display from them.

The reason I’ve marked them substantially below FG relates to the fact the referendum has split their base more deeply than any other party.

Yet this probably had less to do with the issue at hand than their position in government and connection to a tough, even if necessary, austerity agenda. Ironically their heaviest legacy has been their last election campaign, which assumed as its objective a major rather than a minor role in this executive.

As one political opponent put it, “Labour’s Way or Frankfurt’s Way” slogan from the 2011 general election remains the gift that just keeps on giving.

5 – Of all the formal groupings that fought the Referendum, I’m putting the ULA last. In fact in years to come, this may be the moment they pinpoint the loss of real purchase to Sinn Fein, not least in Dublin inner and outer city constituencies. They suffered from the lack of central organisation or cohesion of message.

Their dropped ball (and it was dropped twice, first by Joe Higgins and then more disastrously by Richard Boyd Barrett) was the admission they would have to raise €10 billion in additional taxes.

Ironically, they had some of the most passionate and gifted advocates of the No campaign. And if there were individual winners in this campaign it would undoubtedly be Paul Murphy, the Socialist Party’s single MEP.

But the lack of co-ordination and old time Tammany Hall nous of handling difficult questions (by avoiding them, or not answering them honestly) added to the visible tiredness in their team towards the end of the campaign.

More informally, the independents were most notable by their absence from the campaign. No sign of TV and radio regulars like Ming Flanagan or Finian McGrath. Probably the single most effective independent advocate for a No vote was Declan Ganley who must now be kicking himself for not getting in any earlier in the campaign.  

His message about the debt burden had insufficient time to make its way to the consciousness of the voters.

So which way will it go? The polls say it should be a Yes.  The Noes seems scattered in areas where turnout is traditionally low, and at the moment the figures seem to confirm that pattern. And unlike many No campaigns this one is urging a sharp departure from current government trajectories.

We’ll know a lot more by tomorrow evening…

, ,

  • I’ve been really impressed with Paul Murphy as an activist MEP, and would happily vote for him if I lived in Dublin and he stands in 2014.

  • Mister Joe

    ..his poor grasp of detail serially let him down during set piece interviews with knowledgeable journalists.

    Nothing new then from his move south.
    When will the result be announced?

  • Mick Fealty

    Tomorrow evening… (as it says in the piece)…

  • wee buns

    The turnout is critically low in Donegal Town – ‘worst ever seen’.

    Lucinda Creighton was everywhere and in your face, if that’s what a ‘cracking campaign’ means, but despite being one of the most articulate voices of the moment, she has a tendency to make personal attacks when argued into a corner – very off putting.

    M L McDonald debated strongly, as did Clare Daly and Paul Murphy – but Joe Higgins got caught up in his own rhetoric (again).

    M Martin delivered the most clear reasonable critique from the Yes side, out with the platitudes.

    Enda was piss poor. He knows his time on the leather seats is short & merely seeks damage limitation – to be remembered differently to Cowen?

    Ganley knows how to speak, but toooo late to join the fray (Shane Ross too).

    In general SF would have benefited from a shift of emphasis half way through the campaign, from austerity to Debt.

    Equally FG would have benefited from a gear shift, so as not to sicken people with ‘stability’.

  • Mick Fealty

    No thoughts on Labour wb?

  • duthealla

    Received wisdom is that the low turnout will boost the No side.
    However I have a strong suspicion that those who would vote No are being strongly put off by the fact that only a Yes vote will count and if they get it wrong sure try again.

    In effect voting No has been rendered worthless so why bother.

    Mick you said the court case was a disaster. However I wonder is it. Depends on the segment you interpret it from. A voter who reads Stephen Collins with interest, snorts in agreement and talks about serious measures for serious people might not think much of it. But then were those SFs target vote.

    Flip side is that voters who dont circulate in the rarefied atmosphere of the IT and ABC1, and who have seen their wealth fall significantly, rather than rise might well be impressed that for the first time in decades there is a political party which is willing to rock the boat, to challenge the consensus. i think it’ll do them no harm. People want to see robust opposition and strong challenges including in court.


  • duthealla

    regarding Labour the Phoenix regards Gilmore as a man with a bull’s eye on his back and Joan Burton as the leader

    its hard to watch that infamous Vincent Browne show again and regard Joan as capable of leading but who knows. I think Gilmore has certainly damaged himself significantly and with that big a party you’d have to suspect their are some nervous people there.

    While Gilmore might have been competent (I though too shouty and sloganistic) his was a competence that would have been very well regarded by a FG voter or a FF voter. Would a traditional Labour target voter have been as impressed. Serious doubts for me on that

  • duthealla

    sorry for the 3rd in a row but…

    I am not so sure about Lucinda. She really got owned by Claire Daly and indeed on the last RTE debate Claire Daly again performed very competently. I cant recall seeing much of murphy but credit where its due the ULA have a decent operator in Claire.
    Barrett I think didnt do so well. I found his contributions a bit socialist formulaic but I think the candidate of theirs who maybe disappointed was Joe. In a way thats not a bad situation for them to be in cause they at least have a second tier building well

  • Mick Fealty

    Great points duthealla..

    Concede I may have been a tad generous to Labour. Definitely think they have a tough fight on their hands, not least because they are going to get boxed in by SF using the same rhetoric they used in the run up to the last election.

    I hear what you say re the court action. It just puzzles me why they did it, when it was such a weak case. And they lost. It might play well with some C2s especially those getting cooked by negative equity and a nasty debt overhang. But it won’t go unnoticed that that it was opposition for opposition’s sake.

    To realise its long term ambitions it will need to combine the audacity of the DSW challenge (which was popular because it was also principled).

  • andnowwhat

    There’s a turnout thread on a southern site (probably all of them) at the turnout looks around the 30% mark

  • Mister Joe


    That’s pathetic if true. If I governed I wouldn’t pay any heed to a referendum that didn’t have at least a 50% turnout.

  • Mick Fealty

    Lisbon was passed on 59%

  • Mick Fealty

    If there is a No vote because low turn out then you can reverse those ones and twos…

  • andnowwhat

    Mister Joe

    I totally agree but it’s people’s fee choice. Like Lisbon 2, the blatant blackmail and scare tactics have been thrown about with gay abandon by the Yes side. As they do, the Dublin based media made the no vote a matter for krusties and “terrorist” lovers. The south seriously needs a decent newspaper

  • wee buns

    Labour? Well they hardly featured. That last rte debate saw Joan Burton categorically refusing to answer the question – ‘cans the government rule out a second referendum in the instance of a No vote winning?’ (Where after Daly wiped the floor with her. ..)

    It’s certainly true that Lisbon # 2 has rendered many voters cynical as to the value of their vote; but they are more likely not to vote at all, than to vote Yes cynically.

  • Mick Fealty

    wee buns,

    Suzy Byrne on Late Debate tonight… “People have not believed a lot of what they’ve heard from both sides…”

    I think this is right. But I would not be too cynical about why. For the Yeses this was a genuine ‘brown sandwich’. For the Noes, the abyss and the tangible cost to everyone is utterly inadmissible in court of public opinion.

    That’s enabled FF of all parties to walk through the middle and tell it like it was. Interesting Martin only got free play at the beginning. When govt parties got wind of it and realised they had to get out and bat for this, he was pushed to the background.

    Ironically, no one will blame Martin if the referendum is lost. Most will accrue to the Taoiseach and Labour.

    And all those yummy voters who went from FF to FG will start experiencing a bad bout of buyer’s regret and start thinking about coming back to FF.


    Not that I expect it will go No. Private polling for FG suggests a govt win…

  • weidm7

    SF, while establishing themselves as the voice of opposition, may be pidgeon-holing themselves as a protest party, when things start going well and people have nothing to be angry about, will they keep their high poll figures, will they be able to adapt and start to claw away at the middle class vote?

    Labour have weakened themselves again by blurring their boundaries with FG even more, they really should never have gone into government, if things go well, FG get more votes, if things go bad, both parties get blamed, as well as having to go against their principles (and Gilmore a former Official Sinn Féin man of all things) by inflicting an austerity program on the people, which they knew they would have to do, Labout could’ve been the biggest party at the next election, instead their poll rating is 8%.

    FF presented themselves well as a principled party who refused to oppose just for opposition’s sake, though the Eamon O Cuiv debacle may cause them problems in the future, if that wing of the party does take over, we could see a future FF/SF coalition, if it doesn’t, possibly an FF/FG one, leaving Labour on the sidelines of history.

    I agree with you about the ULA ceding territory to SF, this may be the case for the independents too, though media campaigns would surely affect them less. We’ll see how future polls turn out.

    No one seems happy about voting Yes though, so it’s not really a boon for the government parties, it’s more about sorting out everyone else now that Sinn Féin has become a big player. After a few more years of austerity, who knows what could happen.

  • lover not a fighter

    It appears that Enda is going for the “Just Following Orders” defence if it all comes unstuck in the long run.

    Imagine not being willing to debate in this day and age.

  • wee buns

    There was a lot of fear mongering and double speak.
    According to politics academic Elaine Byrne the demographic has shifted quite radically from traditionally No voters being rural dwellers, and Yes being urbanite – to urban areas being divided along lines of income now, which mirrors the growing inequality in society. It’s a volatile electorate and while not expecting a No to carry, we shall see more counties than Donegal leaning that way.

    A Thursday vote was bad for college students; most didn’t make it home to cast it. Given too that a huge proportion of youth has emigrated, it falls to remaining middle & older people, the latter being hard core Yesers.

    It is true Martin got less air time after an great start. Loose cannons like P.Hogan also disappeared.
    Bruton wasn’t allowed to say ‘peep’ after disclosing that there would indeed be a second referendum in the case of a No. Creighton was forced to admit that there really is no plan in the instance of a No winning. In effect FG would be unable to implement the will of the people.

    Enda’s refusal to debate is simply because he can’t hack it – so how on earth can he negotiate for a penny toffee in Brussels?

  • Mick Fealty

    Byrne was one of the first to call Clare as a strong Yes. But I think that’s the farmers worrying about CAP rather than anything in play in D4…