Sunday, June 07, 2009

Election '09: It's Not Easy Being Green

God never closes one door but he opens another. The country is going to hell in a handcart, there’s no-where left to emigrate to because the whole world is going to hell in the same handcart and the future looks grim any which way you look at it, but an Irish election remains the nation’s finest bloodsport since we stopped coursing the hare.

For the past two days the amateur psephologists of Erin have been in Heaven with the studio debates. Noel Whelan provided what must be the quote of the election so far when he said on Radio 1 on Saturday that tallying was virtually impossible due to the size of the Euro constituencies, particularly Ireland North-West. Whelan made the point that when a ballot box is opened a big bunch of votes for a particular candidate may not count for much in the bigger picture. “What looks like the bald head of Declan Ganley may turn out to be Marian Harkin’s cheek,” said Noel.

LMAO, as the young people say.

The analysis of the election is fun. One of the Sunday papers this morning opined on its front page that “Fine Gael’s sweeping victory in the local and European elections this weekend makes a general election before the end of the year almost inevitable.” An Spailpín Fánach advises against punters betting the farm on that one.

The Dáil is either in summer recess or on the verge of it, and none of our hard-working public representatives will be giving up their holliers. Then, when the Dáil returns, it’s all hands to the mast for Lisbon 2. That’s no time to go boat-rocking, because it’s safe to say that the EU is the only hope of getting any shillings into the exchequer at all for the foreseeable, and if there’s one thing that won’t impress Jerry it’s Paddy giving him a shoe in das Hinterteil while begging for money at the same time.

The opposition will find themselves on the horns of something of a dilemma post the referendum, presuming that it’s passed. If it’s not passed, not only should the Government resign but the opposition would be off their collective nuts to even attempt to govern the country. The only hope for the nation in that nightmare scenario would be to build currachs on a mass scale, and for us all to start rowing to Cuba, as this place will be all shot to hell. Great healthcare in Cuba, you know. Not like here.

And then if the referendum is passed, well, things don’t seem so bad and it’s only two months ‘til Christmas. The Budget would be tricky but, you know, when you’re in a war zone and the bullets haven’t killed you for eighteen months, you start to think maybe you’ll get home alive after all.

The trick is for Fianna Fáil, who have been abused before and are used to it, is to get the Greens to hold their nerve. The Greens are not used to this, and are discovering the price of power the hard way. Níall Ó Brolcháin hopped a ball on Prime Time tonight but all six Green TDs know that if there is an election in the next few weeks none of them are getting back, and this is not a great time to be looking for work in Ireland.

The Greens, like Fianna Fáil, can only take the advice of the old song and look out for better weather. By complete contrast, if the election were tomorrow at five o’clock that would suit Fine Gael and Labour just fine. Because the more time goes by the more likely those boys are likely to get jittery. Especially Fine Gael.

There was a poll in one of the papers where Enda Kenny topped Brian Cowen as the popular choice for Taoiseach, but it will be the slow backroom boy indeed who didn’t notice that 37% chose neither of the above. If “neither of the above” is another way of spelling “Richard Bruton,” then the Fine Gael party have to ask the question if this is indeed a dagger they see before them.

The advantage of someone Fine Gael bigwig like Phil Hogan visiting Islandeady with a shotgun and a shovel is that Richard Bruton may be the missing link that will finally take Fine Gael over the edge. The disadvantage is that they know that, whatever his other faults – Dubliners being mistrustful of culchies his chief problem, it seems. How charming of them – Enda is a marvellous man on the stump, and Richard Bruton may not be as good. Also, while Bertie Ahern beat Kenny in the leaders’ debate in 2007, Kenny suffered no mortal blows. Bruton has not been tested to the same degree. If Fine Gael zap Enda and go with Bruton, and Bruton then blows up – well, that won’t be good.

Coursing was never as good as this. Next week’s fun will feature someone like Paul Gogarty doing an Ó Brolcháin on the plinth outside the Dáil while Brian Cowen uses his singing skills to serenade John Gormley into keeping his nerve. An Spailpín believes a duet of the Kate Bush/Peter Gabriel classic Don’t Give Up would be just the ticket here.

An Spailpín will also be taking this sea change in Irish politics stuff with a pinch of salt. We get a sea change in Irish politics every ten years or so – the seventies being socialist, constitutional crusades and Spring tides come to mind – and then the pendulum pretty much swings back to where it was before. It’s been a source of interest to An Spailpín that Irish political studies are so distant from the actual on the ground reality of Irish political culture, but maybe that’s a story for another day. Right now, An Spailpín would need to see considerably more evidence before he starts buying into any fundamental changes in the nature of the Irish electorate.

FOCAL SCOIR: An Spailpín is of an age now where some of his friends are now elected councillors and doing their bit, in their different ways, for democracy. But An Spailpín would like to take a moment to congratulate Miss Emma Kiernan, unknown to me, who was elected for Fine Gael onto Kildare County Council. Miss Kiernan suffered some ungallant press coverage during the election, but she came through in the end. Good for her.

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