Winners and losers in the political Grand National

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I’ve never forgotten They Shoot Horses Don’t They? It was a classic 1970s film starring Jane Fonda which I probably saw when I was a teenager in the early 1990s. The film was about a couple involved in a marathon dance competition that went on for many days. It was set during the Great Depression in the US and the competition was a cruel one. The couple which could outlast every other competitor on the dance floor got the prize – a few measly dollars.

Election counts are a bit like that. They go on forever and are completely exhausting.

I’m writing this early on Wednesday, but the chances are that when you read this the count in Midlands North West will still not be over.

It’s ridiculous; 27 candidates in a vast constituency. A polling card that’s the length of a toilet roll. And counts excluding some non-entity right-wing candidates that take hours and hours.

Even the local elections can be very trying. The Galway counts were very efficient compared to others – and well done Tom Welby for being the first councillor elected in Ireland…again!

How good or how bad an election is depends on which election you are comparing it with.

If you do a straight comparison with the 2019 election, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are both actually down. Fianna Fáil had 279 seats then: Fine Gael had 255.

But both have presented the local elections as a big win. Why is that? And Sinn Féin won 20 more seats than it did in 2019? Why is it then being portrayed as the loser?

Because the world has changed a lot since 2019. There was the disastrous general election of 2020 where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael lost out heavily. Then Covid came and the Ukraine war and an energy crisis and a huge hike in the cost of living. The economy continued to do well but people’s circumstances fluctuated.

In opinion poll after opinion poll, the two parties were flatlining – and maybe flailing in Fianna Fáil’s case – and for two years the narrative was that Sinn Féin was forging ahead.

But the relics clearly have had some life in them.

Over the course of three or four months, Sinn Féin has gone from best boy in class to whipping boy. The party found itself under pressure on the question of migration.

Pictured: No shortage of interest at the Galway County Council Count Centre at the Lawn Tennis Club. Pic: Gerry Stronge.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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