Election 07: What went wrong

The big spin, of course, is going to be that "all the small parties were squeezed". And there is something to that. But it's notable that in most of the constituencies where we expected to make gains, there was at least one left candidate whose votes could have seen us through - but we didn't get them. Why didn't we? You'd have to suspect that left voters were turned off by what seemed to be an already-made decision to prop up a Fianna Fáil government, and the fact that we'd already shown ourselves willing to discard certain left-wing policies (such as the increases in corporation tax and PAYE for high earners) in order to do so.

As for those voters who wouldn't necessarily be described as "left" but who we'd nonetheless hoped to get the support of, well, it seems pretty simple. The anti-FF ones didn't want to vote for us because we all but said we'd support the government. And the pro-FF ones just voted for FF. Some of them transfered to us, but nowhere near enough.

I'm gutted for people like Larry O'Toole and Dessie Ellis, who've done absolutely stellar work in their constituencies for years and deserved to be rewarded for it. And for Seán Crowe, a truly dedicated public rep. And I can't even bear the thought of Aengus Ó Snodaigh losing his seat.

If there's any silver lining, there were a few constituencies where we performed better than most of us were expecting, such as Cork East, Limerick East and Kerry South. A lot of those who missed out are young enough to have a good go at it again in five years. And of course, there's the PD/Michael McDowell wipeout. But it's really not much consolation. We had a terrible election, and we need to learn from it. I'm not at all confident that we will, though.

As for the other parties, it's interesting the way that the media are spinning some of their results. Have a look at the end of this article, where Labour is described as having "recovered well" - by holding even or losing a seat. The Greens' poor results are glossed over although they look like doing the same. We could end up losing no more seats than either of those parties - yet we get the "big losers" tag and they don't.


I'm aware that this will seem like sour grapes, but it has to be said that the results don't show the electorate in a particularly good light. Look at some of the baffling decisions they have made:
  • In Monaghan, a constituency where the biggest issue is the pending loss of the local hospital, the voters turfed out the hospital candidate (who was admittedly a bit useless) and voted in a member of the party whose government is responsible for the loss of the hospital.
  • In Galway West, where the water's been undrinkable for months, a member of the Government tops the polls.
  • With a similar situation unfolding in Wicklow, the Environment Minister gets nearly a quota on the first count.
  • And I'm not even going to get into some of the things I heard on the doors during this campaign. Let's just say that this was a big victory for clientelism over any sort of ideology.

Finally, while I generally support PR-STV because of the unique ability it gives to small parties and independents to get elected, questions do have to be asked about the fairness of a system under which a candidate who gets 939 votes can get in ahead of candidates who poll over 3000 (see the Dublin Central results). But of course, since Fianna Fáil have benefitted from this system, it will never change.

It's a depressing five years we have ahead of us.

Harney to nurses: vote Sinn Féin

On the 1.oo news today, Minister for Health Mary Harney noted that Sinn Féin are the only party who fully supports the nurses and therefore, if they want their demands met, they and their families should vote for us. Cheers for that Mary, the cheque's in the post.

On another matter, I was relieved to hear that the judge in the Miss D case has shown humanity and compassion - and pulled this country back from the brink of international ridicule - by deciding that the State has no power to prevent a 17-year-old travelling to Britain for an abortion. I'm sure the politicians are relieved too, thinking the issue will die down now. It's important that the growing pro-choice movement doesn't let that happen.

Now for the hard part

Believe it or not, I'm not disappointed that my scepticism about Paisley's intentions currently looks as though it was misplaced. I like being able to say "I told you so" as much as anyone - but the prospect of yet another delay, yet another extension of the Single Transferable Deadline, and above all yet another concession was just too grim to gloat over. So I'm happy if I've been proven wrong ... on this count. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the DUP are going to genuinely share power, or are merely going to use theirs to hold us back.

The media are all agog with reports of this "historic day". Some of you will probably say I'm just being cynical again, but I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. After all, haven't we already been here? Granted it's Paisley and McGuinness, rather than Trimble and Mallon/Durkan, at the helm and I accept all the blah-blah about Dr No finally saying "yes" but at the end of the day how much further along are we, really? I mean if you see the peace process as a vehicle to achieve a united Ireland - as the leadership and party faithful have always insisted it was - rather than merely as a conflict resolution device.

I remain of the view that we made a serious tactical error when the Assembly collapsed. Instead of telling the UUP "fair enough boys, it was your idea to begin with" we allowed ourselves to be sucked into the notion that the peace process depended on its restoration. In doing so, we handed rejectionist unionism the leverage to extract whatever it wanted from us. Now, after concession upon concession, the SF leadership has done well to convince most of the grassroots that getting the process back to where it was several years ago is "progress". We've really just come full circle, and it's still very much an open question whether the revived institutions will provide us the means to actually move forward.

Rally in Response to the ‘Miss D’ Case

Just a quick note to ask that anyone who's willing and able to do so, please make it down to the GPO on Saturday at noon for a rally in response to the Miss D case. Full details on the rally (and the case, for those not familiar with it) are on the Choice Ireland blog (see link to the right of this post).

I, unfortunately, had already chosen this weekend to go visit a friend of mine in Bulgaria, but I fervently hope for a large turnout. It is really time that all parties - including my own - get the message that this subject cannot be ignored for much longer.
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