Is it possible that Fianna Fail has turned another one of those invisible corners?

So averting gaze from the mesmerising polling of the UK election, and to the unfixed electoral politics of the Republic, here’s a constructive question. Is Fianna Fail on the rise again?

Mad, eh? Well, Jody Corcoran does not have a completely unblemished track record when it comes to predicting the future. Still, the 1400 at the party’s selection meeting in Kerry is larger than several parties’ national conferences, and 800 turned up in Sligo last week.

Specifically Jody notes that…

…popular mood – anger is probably the best word – is softening though, which should come as no surprise as the economy lifts and people return to their daily affairs with something more of a spring in their step and the promise of a few quid in their pocket.

The great irony is that as the economy lifts under the stewardship of Fine Gael and Labour, on a plan drawn up by Fianna Fail, so too will the fortunes of Fianna Fail rise, just as the cause and effect of austerity has damned them all too.

Fianna Fail’s story since their abrupt defenestration from power and its unofficial status as Ireland’s ‘party of government’ is largely untold. Probably because it has been so unspectacular as to be almost unreportable.

I recall Eamonn Mallie wondering out loud on Twitter at one point in the first six months of the new Dail sittings about where Fianna Fail was and why they were leaving most of the work of opposition to the smaller Sinn Fein delegation.

The answer to that was that Martin spent most of the first year to eighteen months out and around trying to reconnect with a huge and hugely demoralised activist base within the broad sweep of the country.

Awakening from slumber

The common wisdom inside the party was ‘we have taken our beating and we know the people don’t want to hear from us just yet’. The plainer and more practical truth was that in the first months and years of the new government, FF would only have been attacking their own legacy.

Not of course that that would have stopped many of Mr Martin’s predecessors. But as one senior insider told Slugger during this period, ‘the problem with pure populism is that over time it can make you very unpopular’.

It’s also not within Micheal Martin’s temperament to run headlong at any problem. That indirectness has led to a lot of pent up frustration within the party, with the chosen medium for the expression of discontent usually taking the form of Galway West TD Eamonn O’Cuiv.

Much of the discontent has been over last two years when Martin has been berated publicly and privately for lacking a narrative. Hardest to endure for many has been the popular perception that FF has been slipping behind its Republican adversary Sinn Fein in the polls.

Indeed, if Ireland customarily voted for parliamentarians through a single national list system or even on three constituency basis of the European elections, last year’s elections would have been disastrous for them.

But whilst they secured just one seat (MEP Brian Crowley subsequently lost the party whip*) in the Europeans, the party quietly and without over much hoo ha in the press became the largest party in local government.

So keen was the party to show the fruits of this that the warm up act for the leader’s speech on Saturday was by newly elected councillor Jack Chambers who controversially took the candidacy for Dublin West from the party’s previous candidate, David McGuinness.

The real work has been on the policy front. In particular, Martin has used Health Policy as a way of differentiating his own pay from general taxation policy from Fine Gael’s Dutch model of paying for Health from a public health insurance scheme.

His call for the abolition of Irish Water and return of control to the local authorities who currently retain responsibility for most of its executive functions was commendably clear in his leader’s interview on with Richard Crowley on This Week (if not on the cost of doing so).

At risk at times of boring delegates, the vast bulk of the speech was policy, policy, policy. In effect Martin was talking up his party’s readiness to provide realistic alternative form of government.

Reframing the national battle

This framing of the battle as one primarily between themselves and Fine Gael is crucial to the success of Martin’s strategy. For the first time in the last election his keynote speech was less a list of wishes and wants and more a programme of alternative action.

And a number of popular media  tropes were put to the sword at the weekend including a motion comfortably passed on Saturday morning ruling out a coalition with Fine Gael.

Hardly surprising since the seats most available to them to win in any number are currently in Fine Gael’s hands. By comparison, on Saturday Sinn Fein (who’s rise in the next Dail will almost certainly come at the expense of Labour) caught the back rather than the front of Martin’s hand:

We will never accept the claims of a sinister movement founded 40 years ago to have any link with 1916. The Provisionals remain a movement which covers-up the sickest of crimes in order to protect their members.

We will never allow them to rewrite Irish history to legitimise their despicable crimes.

The Proclamation is a noble statement of republican ideals. It was a profoundly modern document. It demanded that a true republic embrace change. It called for women to be given full political rights and the interests of children to be cherished.

Challenging Sinn Fein

It certainly energised a Fianna Fail audience many of whom have been reared on the blood of slain political enemies. As Fiach Kelly reports:

…on the floor of the RDS, delegates said they were heartened by recent attacking performances by Martin, both against Sinn Féin and the Government parties, which some felt showed their leader was willing to fight.

The counter argument is that focussing so much on Sinn Féin only highlights them as a radical alternative and gives them even more publicity.

By consistently highlighting Sinn Féin sex abuse controversies and other issues, while saying Fine Gael is too right wing, Martin is trying to create the perception of his party as the responsible centre ground.

It is telling that Martin reserved most of his time and energy on Fine Gael.

His Republican ‘takedown’ of Sinn Fein was served up in his Arbour Hill speech the week before was largely part of the ‘soldierly’ mood music for this Ard Fheis.

In it he laid out the grounds on which Sinn Fein remain alienated from both the origins and legitimacy of a state in which they propose to take power by democratic means, and used historic events to lay down a  contemporary political challenge to Sinn Fein:

These people read the Proclamation at their events. They hear the demand for honourable behaviour and service of the people before the movement and yet they keep going.

No member of the Provisional movement has yet lifted a finger to address the widespread abuse of children by their members and the systematic covering up of it up to this day. They shot children in the streets for defying them and they turned a blind eye to the abuse of children.

And back to reality

That people are starting to talk up the chance of veteran Bobby Aylward in Carlow Kilkenny raises another aspect of the coming election, the reclaiming of the brand and the brand heritage.

One former minister is reputed to have said as long ago as 2012 that the people went further in their punishment beating of Fianna Fail than they intended. That’s a matter for considerable conjecture.

Certainly the polls don’t indicate an early redemption, but in Ireland’s multi-member constituencies, a return of at least some of the older crowd is likely and probably inevitable.

Aylward’s backing from a headquarters which is still viewed by some as trying to control who gets back, indicates that sensitivities with the regard to the traumatic past have eased.

Indeed, Martin seemed for the first time to publicly relish the mix of experience and youth of a larger parliamentary party after the next election during his recent Late Late appearance.

And towards the long future

In February this year, Willie O’Dea reprised three questions posed in An tSli, an tough minded think piece circulated in the party examining its post 2011 situation:

  • What does Fianna Fail stand for today?
  • What differentiates Fianna Fail from Fine Gael?
  • What is our clear vision for the Ireland of the next century of independence?

After this Ard Fheis, the answer to the first two are much easier to give than they have been for a very long time. But the third is work for a longer term when the party has a greater prospect of returning to power.

There were honourable mentions for De Valera in the speech (paying tribute to Deputy O’Cuiv in the audience), but the real ghost at the feast here was Sean Lemass, described by the Irish Times in 1959 as…

“…the most hard headed and least sentimental of our statesmen, with an intuitive understanding that the true approach to the North is by way of deeds, not threats or blandishments.”

What that ambitious third question begs is the introduction of grounded but politically imaginative approaches to a new century which promises to be very different from the last. Fianna Fail will have to find ways to work around its own deeply conservative cultural instinct to make that happen.

Or to quote my favourite conservative philosopher of the moment, Lampedusa: “se tutto deve rimanere com’è, è necessario che tutto cambi”, if you want things to stay the way they are, then everything will have to change.

*Interestingly Crowley is still a member of the party and listed as a FF MEP at the Parliament.

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  • kensei

    My gut says if FF are arguing with SF then they are in a bit of trouble. In their imperial phase SF were summarily dismissed as Marxists and that was about that. The poll tracker on the Irish Times is useful: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/poll. FF have still been semi-regularly outpolling SF even during the past Dail, and they are much less transfer repellant. The threat SF pose to the regular order in the South is vastly overstated, and the crisis has only really allowed them a shot at being a permanent fixture on par with labour. That’s not to be sniffed at, but if that’s FF’s future they are buggered. Sf nearly always hit at the low end of projections in the South and I’d see that likely to continue.

    There is also danger in focusing on Troubles related questions if the electorate don’t care, or at least don’t care enough compare dot water charges. It might drag off some or make SF a bit more transfer repellant, but there is always the danger direct insult to a party rubs off as an insult to their voters and hardens the core vote.

    The next election in the South is as potentially fascinating as the current UK one. Just need to wait and see.

  • mickfealty

    That’s why the concentrated anti SF rhetoric was sidebarred to Arbour Hill. It’s an argument that does not engage many outside the Republican hard core and that’s why he picked the fight there.

    Perhaps I should have highlighted more clearly for our northern audience that the bulk of the speech was on policy detail, not attacks. That’s apt to go over our policy free heads.

  • the rich get richer

    The sooner that the Irish people coral ff/fg/lab into one single party the better.

    They have effectively been one party for as long as anyone can remember.

    One party pretending to be three ! ! !

  • mickfealty

    You cannot do that with slogans and gesture politics. The Irish Left has left a big fat hole for FF to reinsert itself into over Irish Water. The anti payment campaign is a re-cycling of an old Labour party campaign from the 70s/80s.

    If Labour had stayed on the opposition benches in 2011 it could have killed FF and concentrated on becoming the new FF. It didn’t, and the project failed because the left essentially straddles government and opposition.

    Split as ever.

  • the rich get richer

    ” ” concentrated on becoming the new FF. It didn’t, and the project failed because the left essentially straddles government and opposition ” ”

    Thats pretty much the same as what I said.

    They (fg/lab/ff) are one party pretending to be three.

    There is probably not one single thing that any of these parties have done in government that the others would have done differently.

    Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do ! ! !

  • mickfealty

    It has a wee bit more detail than yours, along with focus on the failure of the left to take the space [temporarily?] vacated by FF.

    Policy is ‘do’ or ‘not do’. No policy is just another promissory note.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    FF’s main problem at present is that, through its espousal of social liberalism, it has antagonised its socially conservative base in rural and small-town Ireland without winning any support from middle-class urban liberals. The current FF leader’s main objective in life appears to be to get patted on the head by the Irish Times by agreeing to their every demand in relation to gay marriage, surrogacy, abortion and other issues. But, no matter how much Michael Martin prostrates himself before the West Brit Dublin 4 liberal set, they are never going to vote for him. Not in a million years. FF should learn from their mirror-image, the currently much more electorally successful DUP, how to stay in touch with their rural and small-town socially conservative base. I don’t expect the gay marriage referendum to fail (I myself am not bothered about it either way), but I’d expect a sizeable ‘no’ vote of around 35-40%. These people are currently totally unrepresented in the Dail.

    On top of this, I believe many of the soft ‘yes’ voters are becoming quite alarmed by the media establishment’s increasing demonisation of religious opponents of the liberal agenda, the persecution of decent hard-working families like the Ashers, the totalitarianism of those who are ripping down ‘no’ posters all over the Republic, and the abandonment of impartiality by organisations such as the Gardai (condemned today in strong terms by Nuala O’Loan). There is an opening among these people for electoral support but, under its present leader, FF seems totally incapable of exploiting it.

    The other issue severely damaging FF is the widespread belief that they left the Republic’s economy in a state of utter ruin, doomed not to grow again for a generation. This was the line being put out by the likes of the now deafeningly-silent Morgan Kelly and a host of others back in 2010/2011. As every day passes, and the Republic’s economy is once again the fastest-growing in the EU, it becomes more and more clear that the Republic’s doom pornographers greatly exaggerated. Yes, there was a serious recession between 2008 and 2011, for which FF must bear some culpability. But, it was primarily a global recession. The Republic’s recession was somewhat worse than the UK’s, a fall of 10% in GDP compared with 6% in the UK, but, in the previous 20 years the Republic’s economy had grown by almost 250%, compared with 70% in the UK. Rather than indulging in continuous ‘mea culpa’ for their undoubted mistakes in the last few years of their period in government (which were not much different, either in nature or in scale, to those made by UK Labour) FF need to become much more vigorous in defending their record over the entirety of the period from the late 1950s on, a period during which FF were in government most of the time and during which Ireland was transformed from one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the richest.

  • steve white

    MF:The answer to that was that Martin spent most of the first year to
    eighteen months out and around trying to reconnect with a huge and
    hugely demoralised activist base within the broad sweep of the country.

    how do you know this?

  • mickfealty

    Eh?

  • Robin Keogh

    Because MM has on a number of occasions openly said that he spent a huge amount of time doing just that, from the horses mouth so to speak.

  • Robin Keogh

    God alone knows what price independent news and media are charging MM for coming to the rescue of FF, no doubt it will be more than the measly senate seat Bertie Ahern awarded to Eoghan Harris after Harris’ stellar performance in the run up to the 2007 general election. Anyway, such is the way when you have a media of hooligan journilism owned and controlled by corrupt private interests.

    MM did brilliantly at the Ard Fheis. Despite stumbling over a few words here and there,he came across as confident, comitted and in control. His attack on the governemnt was interesting in that it pretty much mirrored a lot of the criticisms already by the left. At one stage I thought i was listening to a SF speach when he talked of abolishing Irish Water and correcting the unfairness of this governemnts distributive policies. Its good to see FF at last taking up some SF policies, obviously the ones that are not bonkers of course. It was also clear that FF have decided to try their hand again at becoming the catch all party in the state. It worked in the past, Martins promise to protect businesses and at the same time grow a social conscience was a sign that the party will mop up whatever they can and say whtaever they need to get whoever they can elected wherever they can with whatever promise they need to hear. Thats politics folks.

    I wasnt surprised at his blistering assault on SF. About three hours before he took to the podium, one of his aides would have told him that Sunday’s red C poll would show a leap in support for SF of 5 points up to 22%, (thankfully the pattern of decline that Mick wrote about sometime back has reversed) FF limped up one point in the poll so i imagine he was raging by the time he got into the hall. He poured out the usual smear to plenty of cheer, it was the only thing that really raised the crowd and idicative of the fear sweeping through the party at the moment due to the SF gallup.

    He forgets that people still remember the gun running scandals of the past. The thousands of women and children brutalised in state run institutions under the watch of FF. He also forgets that the people remember it was FF who encouraged republicans to find a politcal path and legitimised SF in the process. Its a pity him and his cronies didnt insist on a clause in the GFA that would prevent Adams et al. from taking seats in the South in order to keep the Souths politcal culture respectable, of course there was no threat then. The bad shinners have only become really bad since their support threatened the established political hedgemon. Typical FF. In fairness though, when you are busy inflicting economic terrorism on your people, other things are quite likely to slip your mind.

    The local elections were good to FF but as been suggested elsewhere, a low turnout particulary among FG voters over stated the true extent of FF support. Its also possible that while people are happy to give their local FF fella a chance to represent them on the parish council, its quite a different story when it comes to national government as reflected in the by-elections.

    The continued success of Irelands economy will benifit FG with Labour in the bin. The polls tend to understate FF support so they will definately increase their seat number next year, but that increase will be tamed due to transfer toxicity that is no longer a problem for SF. Despite MM’s new found obsession, despite his selective memory, despite his twisting of the truth and cynical expolitation of abuse victims; the people are just not listening to him in big enough numbers. If the success of FF is dependent on the destruction of SF as it seems to appear, he will be sorely dissapointed and it might be a good idea if he has a chat with David Trimble to find out what happens when you try pull the rug from under republicans.

  • Zeno

    “Its good to see FF at last taking up some SF policies, obviously the ones that are not bonkers of course.”

    Are there any that are not bonkers?

  • Robin Keogh

    Lots

  • steve white

    how do you know how MF knows what MM spent his time doing for a year after his re-election?

  • Robin Keogh

    Shut up u thick !

  • mickfealty

    I think you’ll find Jody’s piece is an outlier, just like the previous Red C poll. In my view the rally was always inevitable, and in fact the media have by and large let them alone to get on with the rebuild.

    Martins success at the weekend for once doesn’t really come from his attacking others but from the fact that like the good boy he is he has all his homework done and has finally come out to play.

    The medium term question lies in the third bullet point, and its essentially cultural in nature. Recover is not of itself renew

  • mickfealty

    1, what Robin said. It was in the papers and everywhere else at the time. [See, ghost of Lemass remark above and work backward].

    2, the absences of MM in the Dail in those very early days that Eamonn correctly observed.

    3, I recall talking to people in Leinster House on a particular day whilst MM was putting on his coat in plain sight, with the apparent intention of heading off for said meetings.

    4, what’s your point?

  • kensei

    Here’s the Irish Time poll tracker again: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/poll

    Could you point me to the FF recovery?

  • Kev Hughes

    Question; how Many delegates turned up for FF selection committees in Dublin? 1,400 in Kerry, it’s to be expected Mick, it’s the rump FF crowd. And as was discussed on the Irish Times politics podcast, the local council elections numbers pretty much were in line with those who turned out at the last Dail elections. So what corner do you think they actually turned?

  • mickfealty

    Go back and read the piece very carefully again ken, and you will find the words polls and ‘no signs of redemption’ or something like it in the OP.

  • mickfealty

    Kev, can you post the link to that podcast? I’m interested in that line of thought (and I’m not sure I understand it).

    The corner I’m positing is pretty simple, it’s one that takes them from general incoherence to coherence using policy to map real difference and stake out a battle between themselves and FG.

    You say, rump, I say ‘still huge’ in parts. Those numbers signify that their people who are not walking off the pitch after 4 years in the wilderness.

    The secret of politics as it is in comedy is timing. This coherence is a little late for some of Martin’s critics, but then it was always going to take a long time to do all the necessary stuff when you have such a small parliamentary party.

    I’m not seriously suggesting that this is us back to the ‘2007 squeeze’, but some hint of what is likely to come from the ‘3rd largest party’ in the state by popular polling.

  • Kev Hughes

    There you go Mick:

    https://itunes.apple.com/de/podcast/irish-times-inside-politics/id794389685?l=en&mt=2&i=340497311

    1,400 in Kerry may be ‘huge’ but it’s not Dublin, does anyone think that a similar figure would turn up in Howth, Dun Laoghaire or Ranelagh for instance?

    They’ve kept their core vote, but they don’t appear to be gaining any of the undecideds (30% at one point, now 15% or thereabouts I believe).

    And I do say rump, after all, they’re all that’s left. Being ‘huge’ in certain areas of the country is grand, they’ve a long history and form a seemingly intrinsic part of the landscape, but they seem to kind of circling the wagons in many ways.

    I’d spoken to a gene pool FF supporter and activist from Limerick living here in Germany, they’re kind of at that stage where the SDLP were in say 2003, utter disbelief and a sense of being robbed of their entitlements. Not scientific evidence in any way of course, anecdotal, but I get the impression they say it’s a 2 Parliament job when they think it’s only should be 1.

  • mickfealty

    Ta.

    Definitely two Dail job, but who knows what’s going to happen next. I think it was always a two Dail job to get them back to fitness, the new intake will be raw and will need some bedding with opposition briefs.

    Though I think not having actual power is driving some of them a bit nuts. That’s the most likely reason some of them think it should only have been one. That’s just old arrogance combined with human frustration talking.

  • kensei

    I misunderstanding the first para. Are you referring to SF or FF as the rally?

  • steve white

    I was just asking how you knew.

  • Kev Hughes

    Couldn’t agree more re the arrogance and frustration. That (drunken) conversation we had was interesting, for me at least. Perhaps it was because I’m a northerner but the heavy emphasis on SF stealing their clothes and FF ‘never’ considering coalition with ‘dem Northerners’ was a lot of fun.

    I contrast a young Limerick man who’s tribal with my mainly dub colleagues, FF is a busted flush and they’re so anti FF that I wonder if 1,400 Kerry men are worth a hill of beans or just going to show them lot in Dublin that they haven’t gone away you know?

  • Fianna Fáil’s entry into northern politics via 2019 local government elections comes to mind regarding the third question raised by O’Dea of what is Fianna Fáil to be in 21st century Ireland.

    How will Martin, if he’s still the leader and they keep to its commitment, go about gaining support in the six counties as “progressive republicans” as they call themselves, in a place where Irish republicanism is monopolised by Sinn Féin.

    I can’t help but think that a possible Fianna Fáil market of support lies not with Sinn Féin voters, but more so with the SDLP vote. Unless there’s some sort of amalgamation in the pipeline, Fianna Fáil and the SDLP are inevitably going to clash. This could instigate an actual unification of the SDLP and the southern Labour Party, otherwise the SDLP would become more irrelevant than ever.

    Sinn Féin’s major entry onto the southern political landscape, Fianna Fáil’s impending entry to the politics of the north, and the knock on effects that has for the SDLP, illustrates the direction of travel of Irish politics in the coming years, in being on an increasingly all-Ireland basis.

  • mickfealty

    They aren’t worth a hill of beans without political direction. Claire Byrne live on 20th April is well worth a watch, not least for what certain members of the audience said about never voting FF again.

    Many former supporters are utterly saturated with guilt over what they let FF away with over generations. They feel it almost as a personal failing in themselves. Some of them are gone and will never come back.

    What’s in the parties favour is that no one else has yet quite sealed the deal with those voters. The independents who have soaked up a lot of FF’s dissidents simply cannot perform in any putative coalition in such ambundance.

    The Healy Raes, Gregorys and Lowrys all did well because they were a scarce resource, and capable of falling broadly into the direction the government wanted to go anyway.

    SF I suspect may regret not dealing with their leader properly and transparently. Much like the CC they have generalised a condition that began as a number specific problems.

    Martin’s speech also introduces a form of politics which will enable FF just to slowly turn up the heat in the oven on SF rather than try to take them out in a spectacular hit.

    The numbers only indicate presence. The one member one vote begins to address the real structural weakness of the party structure: ie, the personalised nature of the machine.

    The ruthless defenestration of David McGuinness in Dublin West and giving his replacement Jack Chambers the job of warm up to Micheal was intended as a signal.

    Quick ruthless and committed to the next generation.

    FF’s real problem as I point out above is not the numbers or the moving up, it’s their capacity to embrace genuine innovation in a fragmenting demos that matters.

  • mickfealty

    All I can say is that I think northern nationalism is long overdue a big fat row over something more meaningful than it’s all the Prods fault.

  • Kev Hughes

    You know, I’m actually going to have to slightly disagree on a few things (nuance of course).

    ‘FF’s real problem as I point out above is not the numbers or the moving up, it’s their capacity to embrace genuine innovation in a fragmenting demos that matters.’

    I disagree here; I think it is about the numbers, it’s politics after all. They’ve not mopped up any of those voters who went or are with independents. Also, seriously, they’re nowhere to be seen in Dublin, something you appear to dance around when I comment on this point.

    Further, those votes leaving independents of late (I suspect because their minds are being focused with an election not too far away) are going anywhere but FF, that’s worrying. They’re not gaining, it appears they have their rump and that’s it.

    Further, with an electorate who doesn’t give a monkeys about the troubles, I don’t see what leverage they have over SF who can merely point at the years 2000 to 2009 and ask voters what size their negative equity stands at or how au fait they are with Skype and their kids now that they’re picking grapes in Aus.

    It’s poor policy, but obvious politics, and pretty effective stuff too.

  • If Gerry Adams and Micheál Martin’s recent war of words over the Troubles is anything to go by, it would certainly make for interesting conversation. I’m curious to know, however, what exactly Martin’s Fianna Fáil would actually change about Irish nationalism in the north.

    Fianna Fáil seem to accept the inherent flaws of the old pre-1969 northern state, but refute the legitimacy of the IRA’s campaign. Thus, how is this different to the SDLP’s age-old mantra?

    Furthermore, on cultural issues, such as parading along certain routes, or flying flags in particular places, what exactly are Fianna Fáil going to contribute to the discussion that we have not heard before?

    I find it hard to see an alternative to a northern Fianna Fáil party operating as simply a more nationalistic SDLP. I guess “we had better wait and see”.

  • mickfealty

    Well, I expect they will pick a row over the track record of SF in Brussels. They are in a better position to know than the SDLP for example. I would think their record in Agriculture will come in for much tighter scrutiny too.

    As for parades and the ongoing culture war they would have some serious work to do to redefine what makes for success and failure. At the moment North Belfast is being offered a form of ongoing failure on the basis that ‘the Prods feel more miserableness than us’.

    You cannot making a competing offering in that frame, otherwise it will register as failure. They would have to enlarge the picture and up the rewards with explicit policy initiatives capable of attracting cross community support.

    They would have an explicit advantage over the SDLP in that they would have no government responsibility and no careers to protect. As long as their ideas are well thought through they can go hard and straight for the weaknesses of what MM likes to call the new establishment parties.

  • mickfealty

    I’m not dancing around it. I thought that I had that covered in the ‘invisible’ part of the title. Dublin is thick with Labour seats now as a result of the last election. Many of those former FF seats will just default naturally to SF if the polls hold up. There should be a few places where SF will get two in a single constituency.

    Even with a good campaign it is hard to see that changing over much. By some estimates the party may get as little as three TDs back into Dublin, which I think would be a poor result. But there are probably four or five other places available if they can scrum decent transfers.

    A year out and the party leader has to come out to play, not necessarily hard but consistently pointing at the real choices they’re laying out in their manifesto. The right wing may hate it, but going in from the centre left makes a lot of sense as they need start pulling some of those Bertie seats back sharpish.

    For sure there are bridges that have been completely burnt. To go all metaphorical they’re going to need sappers not tanks if they’re not to collapse on impact. In the meantime they need to cut through the noise on TV and Radio by a younger and in many ways more talented and articulate SF frontbench if they are to effect a squeeze.

    Killing SF on 2016 (Mayoralities in Cork, Dublin, Derry/Strabane and Belfast) is critical to dampening that noise.

  • Kev Hughes

    I thought that I had that covered in the ‘invisible’ part of the title’

    Really? Most things back home in politics must be hid in plain sight nowadays 😀

    I think you’re on to something with the Bertie votes. I’ve lived in Dublin myself (ask John Mooney, I’m something of a hobo) and I’d have said FF would’ve been my natural party for voting; working class in some ways, slightly paternalist at its best, cronyism at its worst. I know many others who’d be like that too with no party that fills their need as such. Now, SF would probably get my vote (Pearse Doherty being someone who’d get my vote any day of the week) but who knows in the future?