Blood on the carpet – but it’s not Sinn Fein’s

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

The spill-out from last month’s elections continues. And it is coloured red for most parties – because with one exception, none have emerged without blood being shed.

The repercussions for Labour have been played out in public for the last week, with Eamon Gilmore’s resignation as leader and a month-long contest in the offing in the race to find his successor.

In the shadow of that, other parties have been able to lick their wounds quietly, without too much probing or gawking by the public.

But that doesn’t hide the reality that, for the other two established parties, it wasn’t that great an election either.

Both could point to high-points; Fine Gael won four out of the eleven European Parliament seats (and with a ridiculously low share of the vote in South). It also won one of the two by-elections (Gabrielle McFadden in Longford-Westmeath) which is an achievement, given the difficulties incumbent governments have in holding onto seats in such circumstances.

For Fianna Fáil, the good news occurred on the flip side. It had a good local election result, increasing its seat numbers by almost 30 from 2009, as well as jumping seven percentage points in support since the 2011 elections. It’s now the dominant party on 13 of the 31 councils.

But in reality Fine Gael had a terrible local election, losing over 100 seats and ceding the position of largest party to Fianna Fáil.

While the party did salvage something out of the European elections, it did not spare a marathon parliamentary party meeting hearing wave after wave of criticism of Fine Gael performance in Government over the past year.

And all the difficulties seem to stem from when the Troika slung their hooks at the end of 2013. The State should have been celebrating the recapturing of its sovereignty, its return to markets without any support or back-up, its ability to cycle its own bike without stabilisers.

Instead, the Coalition has been mired in a constant series of crises and scandals, most of which have been of their own doing. And while Labour paid the bigger price for it, much of it has been the handiwork of two Fine Gael Ministers: Alan Shatter and James Reilly.

While nobody liked being in the Troika programme, there were a few aspects to its operation that the Government should have continued. The first was its transparency.

Every three months the Government had certain targets to meet, tasks to fulfil and legislation to publish – and for once the public could see in a very tangible way what the Government was doing (or wasn’t doing).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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