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Fitzmaurice triumph puts the cat among the pigeons

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Food for thought.....newly election TD Michael Fitzmaurice with his predecessor Luke Ming Flanagan, during one of the turf cutting protest meetings.

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

The by-election in Roscommon-South Leitrim at the weekend was a little strange.  For one, the constituency itself is on its last legs and won’t be there by the time the next general election takes place either late next year or in early 2016. Secondly, the bookmakers got it horribly wrong; Ivan Connaughton was almost an unbackable favourite but still ended up nearly 3,000 votes behind Michael Fitzmaurice in the seventh and final count.

Thirdly, we have an unusual situation developing in the constituency. It’s now more likely than not that two of the three seats in Roscommon-Galway could be independent seats. And what will happen if Luke Ming Flanagan comes back? Curiouser and curiouser.

Sure there’s been a long tradition of Roscommon returning quirky results. I can remember Tom Fox, the original of the species when it came to hospital candidates, making the breakthrough a generation ago.

It also showed that Fianna Fáil can’t rely on the local election results as a weathervane for the general election. Sure the party performed well but those results often have a lot to do with local factors, incumbency and the personality of the candidate. Sure, Fianna Fáil were no longer electoral pariahs but its optimism about a big comeback was overstated.

The only silver lining for Fianna Fáil at the weekend was the fact that Sinn Féin did not win the other by-election. If Cathal King had won Dublin South West, it would have cemented the notion that Sinn Féin was a party on an inexorable rise and that was in the process of shutting out Fianna Fáil in the South, in the same way that it shut out the SDLP in the South.

In the event, Fianna Fáil did not do too badly in the election. It won some 22 per cent of the vote – in a general election situation that will be enough to win the party a seat, even if it doesn’t attract transfers.

Fianna Fáil big problem is that outside its own supporters, it’s not feeling too much love from others. After the disaster of 2011, it is attracting more transfers than Sinn Féin but not that much more.

That should be a concern for the party. It’s not picking up transfers from floating voters – outside its own supporters and those who might have a residual ‘grá’ for the party, it is not just getting it.

Fitzmaurice picked up 8,500 transfers in the seven counts compared to less than 5,000 for Connaughton.

I wrote earlier this week that it was like a stage in the Tour de France when there is a lone breakaway rider and we slowly watch him being reeled and then gobbled up by the peleton in the latter stages of the race.

In the early stages of the election, I though the fact Fitzmaurice was from Galway and was a Galway councillor might go against him a little. But not a bit of it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

FF is stuck between a rock and a hard place

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Crunch time...FF leader Micheal Martin.

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

Anyone who has ever run a marathon knows that, somewhere around the 35km mark, you hit hell – and even when you finish it, the first reaction is ‘never again’…until a few months later they convince themselves it was not that bad, and sure, they might even go again.

And as it is with marathons in the sporting sense, so too in the political sphere – as we’re once again discovering.

Back in 2016, government formation took 70 days – and here we are with another marathon to a tortuous haul over the line.

And to be honest, we’re a long way from resolution.

Fianna Fáil says it will not go into government with Sinn Féin. Fine Gael says it will not go into government with either Sinn Féin or Fianna Fáil. Sinn Féin is exploring a government with the left but the name of the game for the party is some kind of arrangement with Fianna Fáil.

That’s not what Fianna Fáil wants. It wants a grand coalition (even though the two formerly biggest parties are considerably less grand after the election) involving Fine Gael, plus the Greens or Social Democrats or both.

Fine Gael does not want any arrangement. It wants to lead the opposition. But if every other combination bites the dirt, it might be reluctantly willing to talk to Fianna Fáil in terms of some form of coalition arrangement.

Every single suggested arrangement involves a massive fundamental shock to all the parties – but particularly to Fianna Fáil.

The party was the biggest loser in the election. It was expected to make gains, but it ended up losing seven seats, plus some of its brightest TDs, including Lisa Chambers, Fiona O’Loughlin and Declan Breathnach.

Now it faces stark choices on all fronts.

It’s been nearly a decade out of power and needs to go back in – but it has been much weakened and if it goes into government it will not go in as the dominant partner.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Fall-out from election that turned politics on its head

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Sinn Féin's joy...Cllr Dermot Connolly with the party's new Dáil reps Claire Kerrane and Mairead Farrell.

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

How many had heard of Louis O’Hara before last week? No disrespect to the post-grad NUIG student from Casla, near Athenry who is, I hear, a very credible person – but in political terms, he was a complete unknown. Until a month ago, anyone doing the arithmetic for Galway East would see one definite Fianna Fáil seat and one definite Fine Gael – which meant that the Independent seat, held by Seán Canney, would be the one that came under pressure.

And then we got the Sinn Féin surge – and a guy nobody had heard of got over 7,000 first preferences to almost turn political wisdom on its head.

Which sums up why this general election has been one of the most disruptive in the history of the State.

It’s more dramatic since 2011, when Fianna Fáil saw its support quartered from almost 80 to 20 and faced questions about its future.

But this has been more far-reaching. Back then, Fianna Fáíl was replaced by essentially a centrist government – comprised of Fine Gael and Labour – that did what it was told by the Troika (up to a point) and imposed some very tough medicine for a few years.

People have different perspective on the austerity years. But the truth of the matter is that it did take us out of the bailout and then delivered seven years of continuous growth that saw unemployment fall from a high of 15 per cent to below five per cent.

That said, the fruits of economic growth are always unevenly distributed. While the money was coming in, there were deeper problem and they were associated with underinvestment in housing over a long period of time, as well as health.

Health is like a cuckoo chick in a sparrow’s nest. It is always hungry and the sparrow – thinking it is its own – drives itself to exhaustion trying to feed its inexhaustible appetite.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Sinn Fein the big winners before a vote is even cast

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Five-year-old Danny Brady presents a Brigid's Cross to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his trip to the Shearwater Hotel in Ballinasloe to meet Cllr. Aisling Dolan.

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

Saturday’s vote will tell, of course – but Monday may well become the day when we saw the real manifestation of Sinn Féin’s political rise in southern politics. The Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll showed that, five days out from polling day, Sinn Féin was the most popular party in the State – and at 25 per cent, clearly ahead of Fianna Fáíl at 23, Fine Gael at 20, the Greens at 8, Labour at 4, Social Democrats at 2, and Others – including small parties with one per cent support – at 20.

That was buttressed by the TG4 poll for Kerry on Tuesday which showed Pa Daly of Sinn Féin topping the poll, ahead of the Healy Raes. A month ago even Sinn Féín was writing off his chances.

If Mary Lou McDonald had an uneasy interview with Bryan Dobson on Monday it was more than compensated for by other events.

Fine Gael meanwhile had a different trajectory, putting in its worst showing since December 2014 when it scored only 19 per cent and May 2008 when it scored 20 per cent.

Its general election strategy is now in tatters and it has launched a big attack on its rivals in a desperate attempt to recover ground.

Fianna Fáíl is treading water but believes it has a latent support out there who have yet to show their hands.

But for Sinn Féin, the graph has risen dramatically the other way, an eleven point gain since October.

Only twice has it come so close, getting 24 points twice, once in May 2012 and again in October 2018 – and there has been no sign of a slide so far in this campaign.

Conventional wisdom might dictate a levelling off and a drop for SF in the last days – but then it might even maintain the momentum and have the problem Labour had in 1992…loads of support but not enough candidates.

And that is the proof that even Sinn Féin did not see it coming. It thought the election would see it lose seats so it slimmed down its slate of candidates to respond to that.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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