Final words from John Bowman on #ge16

A tradition in Irish election broadcasts is the final thoughts of broadcaster, John Bowman. Since there will be a lot of speculation over the coming days, here is his final analysis of Election 2016;

To say this election is unique goes without saying. It’s historic, it’s seismic, it’s awesome in its consequences and as the deluge subsides what does one see?

Is the integrity of the quarrel between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael intact or will it melt?

Is the grand coalition Fine Gael and Fianna Fail possible or even inevitable?

What is certain is that the party system as we have known it in the 20th century is over.

Sinn Fein has had gains, sure footed and they’ve targets for the next election.

There are new significant groups, AAA, People Before Profit, Independents Alliance, Social Democrats and Independents, and the Greens are back.

The new Dáil will be different, new faces, younger and more women.

But who will form a government, and when?

And when will the next election be?

And who will lead the parties in that election?

We are left with more questions than answers.


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  • Dixie Elliott

    “Sinn Fein has had gains, sure footed and they’ve targets for the next election.”

    The SF silence on Twitter tells that story. This was the Shinner’s opportunity to overtake FF and at 26% at one time it looked like it and they were high-fiving each other and dreaming of Gerry being Taoiseach in time for the Centenary of 1916.

    Their 22 seats sees them as having got nowhere near Labour’s 2011 total of 37 seats (with 19.4% of first preference votes) & look at what happened to that party in this election.

    If that’s the best the Shinners can do on the backs of people’s anger then they’re not rising but managing to stay afloat.

  • Roger

    If there’s a grand coalition, I think SF will benefit at the next election whenever that is….FG and FF will become FG-FF and SF-IRA will be the chief alternative…

  • Greenflag 2

    Labour have gone from 37 seats down to 6 whereas SF will probably end up with 23 and were close to making it 25 . As for people’s anger ? They at least in the Republic have a lot more political outlets for their ‘anger ‘ as John Bowman makes clear above and then there was the rebirthing of FF who were the dominant political party in the Republic for much of the past 50 years .

    Again the mistake from NI is to compare the politics of both jurisdictions as if they were somehow ‘similar ‘ .They’re not . SF are the only party to straddle the jurisdictional divide but that may now be changing with FF’s resurgence . What SF did not expect or predict and for that matter neither did many of the political commentators was the extent of the FF revival . .

    For SF the road immediately ahead in the Republic is forked . The one leads to coalition as the junior partner in a broader FF led coalition call it centre left – The other leads to official opposition to an FG/FF coalition . The latter would mean having to bring together the disparate smaller left groupings /single issue independents etc and in that mix whither Labour .

    The problem for SF in the Republic is that they don’t have political unionism to contend or compete with – They have actual real political/policy competition and no across the water ‘supervisors ‘ to mind how they go .There is no mandatory coalition in the Republic and there never will be .

    Whether they will permanently replace Labour as the main party of the left remains to be seen . Given as Bowman points out above the ‘end ‘ of the 20th century political party consensus in the Republic anything is possible .

    But they are well placed for future growth in the Republic .

  • Greenflag 2

    And at the next election in NI -SF will be in government as the UK Government has decided that it’s the only way NI can have a devolved Assembly . Political unionism has been almost entirely irrelevant in the GE #16 election or at most an afterthought – which in itself says something for the new 21st century politics to which Bowman refers. ‘ .

  • WindsorRocker

    Yes. Parties in different country not really an issue in election for another country.

  • Greenflag 2

    Not that simple . . The German SDP are not impacted by French elections . They don’t stand for election in France . SF in NI are impacted by what happens to their election results in the Republic . For ‘unionism ‘ GE # 16 is not irrelevant as one of their mandatory coalition government partners in Northern Ireland took part in that election and did well .

    As for the ‘another country ‘ .Sure it’s another jurisdiction . But half the population of Northern Ireland is from the same country i.e Ireland . The other half is from wherever they want to be from including Ireland and of course Finchley or Sunderland 😉

  • gerdel

    anyone who did not see ff coming back before this election were not in tune with the reality in the republic….ff,fg and to a lesser extent the labour party have very deep roots and have a much better core vote than the others including sf.
    I agree with Dixie, sf have missed the boat, this was their one and only opportunity to get a significant number of seats(30 plus) and whilst winning more seats than in the previous election, they failed to maximise.
    a rosy picture that some sf will present is that they were unlucky with the bounce of the ball in many constituencies and if another election is held inside 2 years then they could grab 6 to 10 more seats…..I don’t agree.
    sf are now peddling the story that they will only go into government as a lead party….this policy is going to strip them of all legitimacy with the voting public…they would require 45+ seats to become a lead party in the government and that figure is completely outside their reach….I have talked to many who voted for sf, and these voters felt that despite the rhetoric that sf might actually go into coalition with ff….the fact that sf has stonewalled any part in a coalition, has annoyed these voters as they maintain the sf policy platform is made of rubble as they never intended implementing it as they were not going to go into government.
    for the future, assuming the next general election is inside 24 months…..
    fg will have a new leader, fg got 25% this time, they could fall to a low of 20-22next time…but none of the fg voters will ever go to sf.
    ff are playing a blinder post election and I reckon they will fancy that they will pick up at least 5 to 8 points before the next election putting them on 30-35%… constituencies such as offaly,laois, limerick city, cork east…ff will have a great chance of taking an extra seat at the expense of sf who will be their target.
    labour may be on the rocks, but they still have 6(maybe 7 seats) and many others got fair first pref votes against a hurricane this time….I could easily see them creep back to 10% inside 2 years….and the extra few points will be chipped away from the hard left and sf.
    so the future for sf in the south is very insecure despite the picture they want to portray….they will have labour chipping away at them on the soft left, and ff eroding them, especially in rural areas, on the left-middle…… many voters now seeing that a sf vote is a waste as they will not be in power(and refuse to enter a coalition)…and the current sf voter may switch to a local independent to get much bang for their buck.
    I think confusion reigns within the headquarters of sf….the leaders in the north have the luxury of blaming London for all the failings in Stormont……..that luxury bailout is not replicated down south and a totally different mindset is needed……….needed for the election we just had………too late now and the boat has been missed…….over the next 30 years sf will never be a lead party, and probably become a party always getting below 20% of the vote and between 15-30 seats……few within sf will accept this reality.

  • Discuscutter

    SF won’t go in to coalition with FF because both parties would still be short by a lot of seats.

    What ever parties say or think, the choice remain either some kind of deal between FG and FF or an election.

    FF are refusing to enter coalition as well.

    As for FF hitting 30-35%, it will be a long time before any party in Ireland will hit that vote, if ever again.

    FF’s core problem is that its support is overwhelmingly among those 60+.

    Under that it is in trouble.

    So the choice is either an election before Summer or FG/FF coalition of FF supplying support to FG on a vote by vote basis to get them though the year.

    The only one who can make that decision is Micheal Martin.

  • Discuscutter

    Labour’s greatest threat is that it is dead on the ground in local politics. Most of its activists are 60+, it has very limited council reps.

    The Social Democrats are also taking their vote for people who do not like SF and for the bampots there is the anger of the AAA.

    That is a lot of people feasting on a small turkey.

  • Gingray

    My view:

    FG – C
    Still the largest party, but a poor election, does Enda needs to go?

    FF – A
    A fantastic election, could have ended up top dog with another few weeks.

    SF – B
    Bittersweet. Increase in vote and seats hides what could have been a real watershed election

    Labour – E
    6 back is a really poor return, but not as awful as it could have been.

    AAA-PBP – A
    Great election, will be very happy

    Social Democrats – B
    Like Sinn Fein, will be happy, but could have had more come back, rather than just holding on to what they have.

    Greens – A
    Like FF, they have been forgiven by a large portion of their previous voters.

    Renua – F
    Awful. Will the party survive?

    Independents – A
    A fantastic return.

  • gerdel

    in 18 of the 40 constituencies ff hit between 27 & 41%, over 30% in 10…. and now with the wind in their backs you think ff will never ever hit 30-35% nationwide…………alas you must be a nordie shinner…………the sf and dup parties in the north may be the shrewd parties in the 6 counties……..ff would eat both of those 2 parties for lunch when it comes to shrewdness………ff once they get confidence suck in the voting public and that is what is going to happen…..they have an impressive debater as leader, sf and fg have 2 duds in the minds of the southern public and the longer Kenny and adams stay at helm the more it suits ff and martin.

  • Roger

    SF are not in a government.
    They are in an overbloated local assembly that doesn’t even have power to decide on taxes. It’s probably more akin to Louth County Council than the Government of Ireland.

  • mac tire

    FF done well, in relative terms. In my view, most of their ‘success’ is down to people’s low expectations for them.
    Let’s not lose the run of ourselves here – FF got 24% of the vote – their second worse election result ever. They got a bigger percentage in their first election in 1926.
    It’s a decent 7% gain from their last General Election but nowhere near “coming back”. The boring truth is FF survived and have not gone under.

  • Discuscutter

    No, a Munster man.

    It is among the older voter that FF are crawling back among.

    I don’t think any party in Ireland will get 30-35% for many years to come.

    If FF do and anything is possible it will be because they take 10% off FG.

    FF are not adverse to going in to Govt. with FG but they want to be the one that is seen to be the 1st among equals. Coalition talks would be concluded in an hour but for that. One will eat the other’s dinner.

    One of them is going to get squeezed.

  • Greenflag 2

    True enough but it’s the only way the province can be governed at this stage/

  • Greenflag 2

    Never mind what they say now -any of them – . Watch what they do after Easter when the dust has settled . I would’nt rule out anything at this stage -not even a summer election .

  • Discuscutter

    Aye, it will be a few month and it will depend on the polls and what people say on the ground.

    People like Micheal McGrath would run with it, without needing to think about it as would o’Dea etc.

  • Discuscutter

    At least it will be after the Easter commemoration, it would be hard to stomach Micheal Martin up on the stage at it. I’d find John Bruton pulling faces and puking more acceptable at least he would be honest about how he feels in front of people.

  • Skibo

    FF have survived by showing a gentle lean to the left. They realised that the people were more interested in services than in tax rebates. What they did was offer both. I assume if they get into bed with FG they will slide back into their more comfortable position and forget about the left lean. They will hope the country will continue to rise out of the debacle they placed it in and all will be hunky dory for the next election. Will the electorate be bought so easily?

  • Roger

    Well I don’t know if that’s true or not. Stormont was suspended for a few years since the GFA and it didn’t lead to violence or slaughter. The local government arrangements are so dysfunctional in UKNI that I’d say a very large number would not shed a tear if they were suspended again – permanently. As for the extremists, they are hard to understand so I am speculating here. But going by logic and I accept they have a deficit in that regard: are these local government arrangements what people died fighting for or would be prepared to die for again? Very hard to say.

  • Greenflag 2

    I’ve amended my comment above to reflect what I meant . Yes a large number would’nt shed a tear and whatever violence would emanate from dissidents or loyalists would make no difference to any future political outcome .That’s not to say it can’t happen under DR but on any scale probably a lot less than 30 years ago .

  • Greenflag 2

    Bampots ? This is not a word in the Irish political lexicon not yet anyway . Labour’s speaking rights in the DAil are dependent on Willie Penrose holding on to his seat in Longford/Westmeath and it’s down to 2 or 3 votes .

  • Nordie Northsider

    It seems to me that very few people realise the utter difficulty of what Sinn Féin are trying to do in the Republic. There have been any number of radical offshoots of the Republican movement: Republican Congress, Clann na Poblachta, Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party etc. Some of them looked as if they might realign Irish politics and some of them did okay, for a while. All of them turned out to be shortlived and either disappeared or collapsed into the mainstream parties.

    It seems to me that when SF spokespeople talk about being happy with steady, sustainable growth, they’re not just putting a brave face on things while secretly yearning for a dramatic surge in support. Look at how some of their first crop of TDs scraped home and took the last seats in their constituencies but are now topping the poll or comfortably taking the second or third seats. Look at how few seats they have lost – Seán Crowe (who won the seat back) and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (more due to bad vote management than anything else). Look at how there is a pattern of near miss in one electoral cycle followed up by success in the next. And SF had a great many near misses in the 2016 election. I’d take that any day over a ‘Gilmore Gale’ or a ‘Spring Tide’ that only leaves you high and dry in the end.

  • Brendan Heading

    SF were treading water in the south up until the period following the 2007 election. Had it not been for the economic catastrophe of the past number of years I don’t think they’d be doing as well as they are now.

    While the consolidation and expansion of the party as a presence in the Dáil is a straightforward fact, the party is no closer to being in government. Given the reaffirmation of Fianna Fáil as a major party in this election, SF’s future lies either in permanent opposition, or as a junior coalition partner to FF or FG.

  • Dixie Elliott

    SF’s opportunity in he South came and it’s gone. FF are back FG are still thereabouts and many who might have stomached voting SF in order to send a message to the established parties turned to Independents and other smaller parties to SF’s cost. Clearly the people saw the disaster that was Adams on TV and swung elsewhere.

    To be truthful I was expecting SF to have made a coalition and was bracing myself for having to accept I’d have to at least wait out a term watching their Northern side come to the fore before the next election would see them go the way of Labour without the Peace Process to save their necks.

  • Discuscutter

    Glaswegian word for head the ball.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Those are very confident predictions, Dixie. I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen in the political life of the Republic in the short to medium term. Not many professional politicians do either.

  • Greenflag 2

    Perhaps after a few pints in a Glaswegian pub a gobshite can evolve into a bampot or vice versa ? 😉 thanks