As a year of potentially enormous political significance begins, Insider has decided to look at the prospects for each party, both on a national and local level. Insider cannot recall a time of more political uncertainty, and the predictions made today may seem very foolish in two or three months time. Insider firmly believes that the result of the election could also differ considerably depending on the date it is held. Is the 'Gilmore Gale' still blowing? Will Brian Cowen even lead FF into battle? Has Enda Kenny put the questions over his capacity for the job of Taoiseach to bed? Will disaffected members of the public support SF in unprecedented numbers? How many more sitting TD's will opt out? Are the Greens already a spent force? So much uncertainty, and so much anger. So much to lose, and so much to win. Insider has decided to sum up the reasons he would vote 'for' or 'against' each party. Today Insider will look at Longford-Westmeath, and look at Roscommon-South Leitrim and Galway East in the coming weeks.
Fianna Fail — The Case For
The enormous loyalty the party has enjoyed for generations; could support really be halved in one election? What about the hand hovering over the ballot paper that has always marked No.1 against a FF candidate. Can the habit of a lifetime be changed? And are they really as bad as some media organisations now make them out to be? The party, that Insider reads has brought the state to bankruptcy, is hard to reconcile with the personality of Deputy Mary O'Rourke and Deputy Peter Kelly, who Insider knows work hard and deliver for this area. Will this be enough to save them? After all they have done for this constituency, it is difficult not to see them returned to the 31st Dail. The fact is that many of the electorate could vote for Deputy O'Rourke and still feel they were not supporting the government, but it was more a case of a vote for Mary! And what about Deputy Kelly, hard working and seen as a very good constituency TD, will he be a casualty of the present hostility to FF? Cllr Robert Troy is the one FF candidate who is relatively untainted by the national failures of FF. Voting for a candidate such as Cllr Troy is one way of registering Insider's protest, but not abandoning the party completely. FF have the experience to see us through and have surely learned from their mistakes. They seem to be getting to grips with the problems. Can Insider give them one last chance to correct the errors of their ways? And look at the alternative. Their huge differences in many policy areas hardly inspires confidence in a united government to solve our problems. So though not very impressed by the two Brians, Insider still wont abandon my local man or woman, and if they are to lose out, Insider will still be able to look them in the eye and tell them Insider looked after them. It wasn't Insider who abandoned them in their hour of need.
The Case Against
Look what they have done to our beautiful country. FF, the Republican party, the irony of it now. They have lost us our economic independence, and have blown the best chance in a lifetime to put Ireland on a very sound financial footing, with a society that reflects this. Another generation forced to emigrate, while the golden few are looked after. This election cannot come quickly enough for Insider, and no defeat will be bad enough for FF. They are too long in power. They are incompetent. Can you think of one Minister doing a good job? No, Insider thought so. Was it inevitable that it would come to this? After all their bluff, bluster and spoofing, at last they have been found out. Insider recently heard some of them saying this is 'not a time for politics as usual', but a 'time to put the country first'. Does this statement not sum them up? When was politics not about putting the country first? Insider would love them to tell us when they decided to start putting the country first. What of the recent proposal to hold a referendum to abolish the Senate on the day of the general election; Insider can confirm to the government that the public want a political corpse all right, but it is not the Senate's they want, it is the Government's itself. The people are entitled to vent their anger. The most incompetent Government ever, roll on election day.
Fine Gael — The Case For
A change, please. The present Government must be removed from office, and this is the best alternative. Insider doesn't want any loonies, but sound policies implemented by honest and hard working people. Policies which make sense and which can rescue us and restore confidence in the shortest timeframe. Nationally, they have a very good bunch of young TD's who look ready to sit at the top table. We need this generational change, a Government of Varadkar, Hayes, Naughton, Creighton and the other young turks overseen by the experienced Kenny, Hogan, Bruton and Noonan. FG did a very good job when last in power, and left the economy in a very healthy state. Their plans for the department of Health seem to make sense, and their proposals for reform of the public sector make some appeal to Insider. Locally, their candidates are of a very high calibre. Deputy James Bannon must be in the driving seat, and is joined by two very strong candidates, Senator Nicky McFadden and Cllr Peter Burke. Winning two seats here would be a significant achievement for FG, and this is one upset that Insider feels is distinctly possible.
The Case Against
Are they that different to Fianna Fail? Had they won the 2007 election, Insider believes we would probably still be in the mess we are in now. We need radical change and Fine Gael cannot provide that. Can the sweeping changes we need be led by the 'Father' of the Dail, Deputy Kenny, and his finance spokesman, Deputy Noonan, a man who was in the Cabinet before any of the present Government were even in the Dail? Voting FG is the sticking plaster approach, and Insider believes we need major surgery. 'Fianna Fail Lite', their own Lucinda Creighton warned them of becoming, need Insider say any more? If FF are so bad, why haven't FG been able to expose this over the last fourteen years. Bertie won three elections against them, and we know how he turned out. If they could not expose FF's weaknesses in the last few years, what chance have they against the IMF and ECB. They claim they would be tougher negotiators with the IMF and ECB than FF, but it is FG who have let FF run amok for over a decade. Name me five of their Front Bench, and the positions they hold? Not easy is it? The names of the alternative government should be on everyone's lips. They will need to make a much greater impact in the coming weeks if the sixty, not to mention seventy, seat barrier is to be broken.
Labour — The Case For
Insider sees Deputy Gilmore as a popular and competent leader. A party that would offer a real alternative to the tweedledum/tweedledee of FF and FG. We could have our first left leaning Government ever in the history of the state. These are radical times and they need radical solutions. Labour offer a real alternative, with the experience of Pat Rabbitte and Ruari Quinn, allied to the youth and hunger of Sean Sherlock and a host of new candidates who seem set for first time election to the next Dail. This could be a really good combination. Willie Penrose is one of the most respected members of the Labour party and topped the poll in 2007 when the Labour party did not perform well nationally. He gets the unwelcome tag of having a safe seat, but his performance is unlikely to be strong enough to bring in a second Labour TD. Cllr Mae Sexton has made the strange leap from the PD's to Labour, and will no doubt secure a good vote from her Longford base. Were the present national polls to hold until voting day, she could be in the shake-up for a seat, and she will certainly be hoping that the 'Gilmore Gale' will be blowing thorough Longford and Westmeath in the early spring.
The Case Against
Light on policies, and strong on soundbites, Insider believes. Exactly what we don't need. Labour try to be all things to all people, and that is not going to work this time. Under the microscope of an election campaign, Labour will be found wanting. The cliches wont be enough. Pretending that the economic pain can be somehow avoided or delayed is offering unrealistic and false hope to people. Labour need to be far more specific on taxation rises and expenditure reductions. Can anyone realistically see Labour leading the charge to a renewed dynamic economy? They would fall at the first hurdle of tackling the bloated public service. Their putative alternative government with FG would be a policy nightmare to construct. They disagree fundamentally on many of the major issues. Everyone agrees we need certainty, and political stability, in the coming years. We cant indulge a government of such diverse opinions as FG/Labour, the economic price we would have to pay is too heavy. Determination to be rid of FF is not enough reason to promote and support Labour.
It is unlikely that any candidate will emerge from outside the three main parties to win a seat in this constituency. All in all, it looks a safe bet for one seat each for FF, FG and Labour. Insider sees a real battle for the last seat between the three parties, with FG just getting there on present poll ratings.
All in all, politically, a fascinating time ahead. A real tonic for political anoraks, such as Insider. And what of the 'unknown unknowns'? Is a new political party about to emerge? Some commentators seem to be indicating an interest in just such a venture. Could a David McWilliams inspired party capture the public imagination, and throw Insider's predictions into disarray? Will Declan Ganley return to the fray? Has he caught the political bug, or is he glad to have said goodbye? Who, or what, else may emerge? The situation is so fluid, expressing any opinion with such uncertainty in the air, may be foolhardy. But Insider can't resist. The anticipation excites Insider. Old friends will fall, Insider accepts that. Insider himself may fall ( he finds that harder to accept ). When political tides sweep much before them, there are always unfair casualties. Many Government TD's are just about to find this out for themselves.