Despite the rumours all parties will keep their options open till after the next election

So here, Micheal Martin had an interview in the Irish Sun last week. Caused a bit of a stir on and As it might.

Nothing stirs online chatter than future combinations of government parties (particularly at a time when the government seem to be getting some half decent press).

Interestingly it’s not the one I’ve heard most about, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, which FFers themselves dismiss as cover by country FG TDs under pressure from rekindling of the FF flame in their constituency back yards.

Rather it’s about speculation around Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail going into power together. My suspicion falls upon similar sources.

Certainly, it’s clear from this conversation with Senator David Cullinane who makes it clear SF is not planning to go into government with anyone as a junior party:

Then again neither is Micheal Martin contemplating that proposition either. In fact he clearly reckons there is still a few votes in hitting the Shinners. Though in this case it seems someone’s given him the premise:

he launched a scathing attack on Sinn Fein, accusing members of the party of harassing him during a Siptu march in his native Cork in support of home helps.

Actions and behaviour emanating from members of that party I would have concerns about,” he said, when singling out pickets on offices of TDs.

“I think that’s wrong… they are in parliament and they can make their points of view there.

“Not all members of Sinn Fein, but a certain element engage in intimidation for political points — they did that in the North with the SDLP. There are attempting to do that down here.

As Cormac Lucey notes: “speculation mounts that the party might eventually enter government with Sinn Féin. Not if we believe recent comments from party leader Micheál Martin. [emphasis added]”

One iron rule of Irish coalition politics is never rule anything out completely. You never know when you’ll have to do a sudden backtrack. Another is, in government (like a merger in business) it is eat, or be eaten.

  • February 2013 first preference voting intentions by region via Pat Leahy in the Sunday Business Post:

    Fine Gael = 24% (Dublin), 32% (Rest of Leinster), 29% (Munster), 29% (Connacht/Ulster).
    Fianna Fáil = 22% (Dublin), 25% (Rest of Leinster), 32% (Munster), 23% (Connacht/Ulster).
    Sinn Féin = 15% (Dublin), 16% (Rest of Leinster), 14% (Munster), 22% (Connacht/Ulster).
    Labour = 19% (Dublin), 12% (Rest of Leinster), 9% (Munster), 5% (Connacht/Ulster).
    Ind/Other = 20% (Dublin), 15% (Rest of Leinster), 16% (Munster), 21% (Connacht/Ulster).

    Even spread for FG, with traditional weight outside Dublin. FF recovering in Dublin and doing very well in Munster (the leader effect). SF holding its up vote in Dublin but needs to be far higher if it wishes access to Gov. Buildings and same applies to Munster (where FF definitely taking away potential votes). Lab disastrous outside of its Dublin heartlands. Ind/Others showing another respectable spread.

    Micheál Martin and FF clearly view SF as the main rivals, not FG or even Lab (bit hard to tackle the latter two when they are essentially implementing polices you began and continue to favour). The “Germany in 1930s” and Nazi nonsense in relation to SF might go down badly though with thinking voters. He might turn down a formal coalition with SF but an informal agreement in An Dáil to support an FF minority government with a few “Others” thrown into the mix?

  • Mick Fealty

    Look were the seats are… To be blunt, there’s no margin in targeting SFR over FG. SF will hold assets they have now and take more. FG on the other hand will provide most its seat bonus next time out. SF will take a chunk of seats from Labour.

    As for hitting SF, that’s just part of the cut and thrust of politics. The telling thing is ‘not all members’. I read that as some of their target market are listening intently to SF. Translates as “they have some great people, but don’t forget they keep some very poor company”…

  • Its true that the FF birds are returning to the FF nest after a brief sojourn with FG but where is the capital for FF in going after FG? The party is implementing FF’s former policies. The few swipes that FF have taken have been half-hearted at best and mostly confined to An Dáil. Get an FF TD on Vincent Brown, get him to criticise FG/Lab for their policies, and Vincent is not long in pointing out they are simply following FF’s playbook.

    FF seems content to sit back and let their former voters return to them as the FG/Lab coalition takes the fall as the bad guys. Martin certainly seems more interested in targeting Adams than going after Kenny and Gilmore. There must be a reason why beyond simply playing to the traditional anti-SF middle classes.

    Does he believe that if FG and Lab are proved to be a busted flush at the next general election that he can attract more of their votes if he reassures such folk that he is a never-never-never in relation to SF in government?

  • Mick Fealty

    Most of the work their front benchers is in the detail (not an apparent SF strength) and trying to see what might scale up, now or later. That’s largely targeting Labour and Fine Gael, and only as an afterthought Sinn Fein.

    Sinn Fein have a policy of being against everything. Two years ago Pearse was telling us that Argentina defaulted, so Ireland could too.

    He’s dropped that one from the repertoire now, since it became obvious that Argenta is anything but alright.

    By contrast, Martin is carefully positioning himself so that he could conceivably partner with almost any party and pull it off. Including SF.

    By contrast Martin’s positioning over the Fiscal Compact allowed him to achieve two things:

    1, pay some decent political money into the ‘we have changed’ narrative…

    2, differentiate the party from their opponents on the opposition benches (SF)…

    This is not about targeting. Rather, for the most, part it is about playing its own political game plan. Building capacity where it lost last time (and in the 09 locals) and making sure internal reforms are implemented quickly enough to deliver punch where and when it is needed.

    That’s a big enough job in itself for what is a very small headquarters team compared to what they had in times gone by. There’s not the time nor the resources to be gratuitously ‘targeting’ a minor player like SF in the south.

    A slap every now and then in the papers or on the tele will do them no harm, but the real battle in the Dail is undoubtedly about getting back across the country.

  • BarneyT

    “SF is not planning to go into government with anyone as a junior party” – if presented with the opportunity, SF would certainly go into government as a junior member. Gerry Adams as Taniste? A provisional for an official? No question.

    The prospect of power in the North and Republic is a mouth-watering prospect for SF. They are the junior party in the north, although powersharing makes this less of an issue. They would gladly move into coalition with FF and Gerry would bask in Gilmores current role.

    You’ve hightlighted some FF softening on SF so the scene is being set. Providing SF do eat into Labour more than they do to FF, the deal is on,