Election Blog 9 – Sunday 9th February (9am)

It is almost three days since I had time to write the last blog and what a three days it has been. To get the Roscommon/Galway election out of the way first, I have a few observations. The story of the Sinn Fein surge is now well known and Claire Kerrane has taken a seat in the constituency against the odds. I had reckoned that she would at least double her vote from 2016 (over 3,000) but I didn’t think she would get in. Fair play to her too.

It was a spectacular performance from Michael Fitzmaurice who put in a solid four years, was high profile locally and nationally on the media, and benefitted by his decision not to go into Government with the Independent Alliance in 2016. The addition of a nice big chunk of East Galway into the constituency was also a help to him. It remains to be seen what role he will have in the formation of any possible Government.

Dennis Naughten dropped a massive five and a half thousand first preference votes and was still elected comfortably but with the national trend away from the established figures, he will have to look out if there is any election again shortly.

In truth this election was done and dusted as soon as the tally figures were known on Sunday morning. The big shock was the poor performance of Fianna Fail who decided to run two candidates and neither came near being elected. Orla Leyden polled very poorly while Eugene Murphy was simply squeezed out by a combination of the swing against the Government parties and very poor vote management. The party are in real trouble in Roscommon if they do not make a massive change.

Aisling Dolan actually did quite well for someone that joined the race so late in the campaign. However she will always suffer as long as Dennis Naughten is in the field as he attracts a lot of ‘Fine Gael’ votes. We now have a constituency where there is no FG or FF TD. Extraordinary.

On the National scene it will be very interesting indeed to see if Mary Lou McDonald can put a government together ‘on the left’. I think that is very unlikely as by my calculations she won’t get beyond the mid-sixties in terms of seat numbers.

The next option is for Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein to go into coalition along with The Greens. But from talking to FF people on the ground there is a major groundswell of serious reservations among senior TD’s about going back on what was said during the campaign. It has been a very poor election for FF and they may not have the stomach for five years in Government with a party that they despise
There is no chance whatsoever of Fine Gael going into Government with Sinn Fein and that requires no more comment. A Grand Coalition between FG and FF is extremely unlikely even though there is very little between the two parties in terms of ideology or policy. There old ‘civil war’ politics is still a factor. However it is the only option that makes sense.

So where does that leave us? I am of the opinion that we will be back at the polls within three months. What that will solve is anyone’s guess and we might end up in the same situation again.

Sinn Fein have got a massive vote in this election and in some ways I would like to see them in Government. Complaining about what’s going on in Government is easy. Getting in there and making decisions is another thing entirely.

One thing is for certain. The old order has changed and changed forever. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have had it too easy for over 100 years and they have lost their way. It is doubtful if they will ever re-discover old glories.

On Morning Ireland last Sunday morning one of the guests remarked “Fianna Fail and Fine Gaels are now the parties of old people and pensioners” I have been thinking about that statement a lot since, and you know. It’s true.

The country will never be the same again for good or for bad.