-Candidates I’m inherently opposed to (Ronan Mullen).
-Candidates I’m opposed to in terms of some aspect of their political or economic ideology (Karen Devine).
-Candidates whose campaign/message just didn’t impress me at all (Peter Finnegan).
-Candidates that basically ran non-existent campaigns (Garbhan Downey, Marcus Matthews, Brendan Price, Anne Barrett).
So, we’re down to 12. From here it gets harder, as the rest all begin to look a bit more indistinguishable from each other, all of them backing Seanad reform, homelessness measures, mental health funding, pro-environmental policies and a generally progressive, liberal ideology.
You have to get really cutthroat here, and look at levels of experience, effectiveness of message and suitability for office, so Ali Abbas O’Shea, Jennifer Butler, Eoin Delahunty, Eva Dowling, Mick Finn, Michelle Healy and Keith Scanlon are all dismissed. With that done, I’m happy to narrow my choices to five: Ruth Coppinger, Laura Harmon, Rory Hearne, Alice-Mary Higgins and Michael McDowell.
All of these are good candidates in their own way. Rory Hearne, by a very bare margin, is who I would put down as a #5. Laura Harmon does not have public representative experience, but has improved her profile a lot over the last three years, so she’s #4. McDowell got my #3 last time, and I’m happy to stick with that for him. Alice-Mary Higgins has done as much in office as I could reasonably have expected, so she’ll get my #2.
When it came to #1, it had to be Ruth Coppinger, and not just because she was my #1 a few weeks ago in the general election (though obviously that has an impact). We need voices like Coppinger’s in the Oireachtas. Voices that will be a substitute for the truly vulnerable in society, be they the working class, the unemployed, the homeless or the immigrant. We need someone like her who refuses to be bullied in debates, and who gives outstanding performances in committees, asking hard questions and not backing down in the face of FG/FF stonewalling. We need someone like her who were the loudest in their support for repeal of the 8th amendment, and for the rights and equality of women generally. We need someone of obvious principal and genuineness. We, simply put, need someone like Coppinger, a voice for socialist progression in a government that has come to be so dominated by the centre that any move away from there seems radical. The Seanad is not the best place for her talents, but it is what’s on offer.
As for who will get elected, well I haven’t changed my opinion too much from my initial offering a few weeks. Mullen is a cert, McDowell only slightly less-so. The only question is whether Coppinger has the name recognition to get beyond Higgins and Harmon, and while I think it will be tight, I suspect that she does have that.
When the count is done in a few weeks, I’ll do a quick review of where everyone ended up.