So, some election huh? Some constituency by constituency stuff coming later, but for now, I’ll just go party by party based on their totals.
Fine Gael, well, it was their day. Utterly masterful vote management saw them get three seats, and in Mayo four, in many areas. They picked the areas they knew they could make gains in, picked the right people, promoted them the right way, and made sure they got over the line. 76 seats is their reward. It’s not an overall majority, but it puts them in the driving seats.
The increasingly good performance of Enda Kenny during the campaign was crucial. He became someone the people could see as Taoiseach, surrounded by knowledgeable and likeable people like Noonan, Varadker and Reilly. He’s Taoiseach and a deserving one.
Labour must also be over the moon, though some might feel a little disappointed they didn’t do better. They fell away a bit in the last week of the campaign, and “Gilmore For Taoiseach!” is a phrase many will want to forget. They didn’t get it right everywhere, like Waterford and Dun Laoghaire, and it’s clear that their vote management skills need some tweaking. But they have someone in most places and they’ve made breakthroughs in areas like Clare. Crucial, for next time.
Fianna Fail, oh boy, it was bad. What can I say, they were poison, for first preferences and transfers. Some, like Kitt, O’Cuiv and O’Dea can remain buoyant, but for most of the others it was an utter slaughter. Traditional strongholds like Dublin, Donegal and Kerry are lost to them. They ran too many candidates in a lot of places and utterly failed to make an impression with most urban voters. A lot of sitting TDs lost out and lost out early. The party can only go up next time, but this is going to be a huge shock to the FF system, being a small party for the first time.
Sinn Fein will be delighted. With a few exceptions, they picked their candidates and target areas well. They benefited from transfers, voter malaise with the big three, and their bulls**t alternative manifesto which was always going to turn heads. It remains to be seen how much of an effect Adams and co can have in the Dail, but they’ve doubled their total in a day. They might do it again in five years.
The ULA got to their target, though as I’ve noted before, they completely failed to make an impression outside urban areas, the exception being Tipp South. They remain in that niche. Big term for the hard left, now with a strong voice in the new Dail. What can they do with it? It’s not exactly clear if and how the ULA will operate in the Dail yet, whether it will remain as a group or split into separate organisations (the Socialists, People Before Profit and Workers and Unemployed Action Group).
Independents, well, you have three main types. The traditional names, Lowry, Healy-Rae, Grealish will be on hand to do deals and make it big for their areas. They have seats for life, what do they care? The fringe, guys like Wallace and “Ming” Flanagan, strike me as the kind of people who will make a lot of noise for the first few weeks, then drop out of view until closer to the next election. And the unknowns, guys like Shane Ross, whose political ambitions/alignment make them somewhat hard to call, might just be the most important, the kind of people who, aligned with the ULA candidates, could form a very notable grouping in the Dail. The term “technical group” is being bandied about. Why stop there? A new party might be just what the Dail needs.
Oh, and the Greens. Total change needed there. New leader, new faces, new outlook. After this electoral drubbing, they need to cut ties with Gormley and his FF coalition supporting chums and get back to brass tacks, probably in the form of those few local councillors they have left.
As regards the next Dail, there are only three possibilities:
A Fine Gael/Labour coalition is the most likely outcome, probably the best. It’s just matter of deciding Ministerial margins, policy reconciliation and the like. It won’t be easy, and Labour aren’t going to get as much out of it as they think they will. If Labour push too hard, Kenny might simply decide it isn’t worth his time and look elsewhere.
A Fine Gael government backed by Independents is still a possibility, but one that remains unlikely for obvious reasons. Too unstable, too unpopular, too difficult to work out. Any government like that simply won’t last.
Lastly, the nuclear option, Fine Gael/Fianna Fail. The only way that this could happen is if the Labour talks break down completely and Martin asks for very little, but it isn’t beyond the realms of the possible at all. Certainly, Fianna Fails hang up on being the minor party in a coalition would be something that is a little stupid to hold onto, considering the drubbing that they just took.
I’d put money on FG/Lab all the same, Gilmore as Tanaiste with five Ministers. It might ruin Labour as it did with the Lib Dems in Britain, but you just don’t know these things.
Election done, Dail time