The Lisbon Treaty referendum victory is a boost for Brian Cowen and Fianna Fáil nationally. In any match the captain, regardless of how well he played all season, is the recipient of the cup.
So it is that Cowen was the smiling statesman last week while Eamon Gilmore and Enda Kenny immediately launched their next round of missiles. Johnny ‘Cash’ O’Donoghue is the next thorn in the Fianna Fáil side but the afterglow of Lisbon will still keep Cowen warm.
His troubles are far from over however and the bounce of Lisbon might just bring him high enough to crack his skull off the NAMA rafter. Failing that as he comes back to earth he may well slip on the new Green deal banana skins - hare coursing and summary execution of 25 backbench TDs and most of the Seanad. Failing all that he may just get done by the Budget.
Another problem for him however will be Galway West. This constituency could cause him sleepless nights, unlike most other western counties, as all his sittings TD’s are nearly 60. Politics is quite simply a young man’s (or woman’s ) game.
Frank Fahey and Éamon Ó Cuív know an election is in the offing within the next 12 months. The black books are being dusted off and the faithful are being phoned up. Despite Lisbon the faithful are not responding well.
The appallingly low numbers of the faithful to greet the Taoiseach in Galway will not assist Minister Ó Cuív in staying in cabinet. The cheery reaction to the Taoiseach on the street was surprising to many and there definitely seems to have been a turnaround since the Ryan Tubridy interview.
Nobody in Fianna Fáil canvassed most houses in the cities and bar the Taoiseach’s walk around there was little presence. The Labour Party appeared to be most active on the Yes side in the city with the Ó Cuív machine in full force in Connemara.
The situation in Galway West is politically bad and it is widely acknowledged that Fianna Fáil will lose a seat if the same ticket runs in this upcoming election. The all male trio of Fahey, Crowe, and Ó Cuív polled five per cent below the Fianna Fáil national average last time out.
Applying a five per cent under performance to current opinion poll ratings would give Fianna Fáil one seat and no chance of fighting for the last. Frank Fahey may stand down rather than test the electorate again. In doing so he may ease the tension for Fianna Fáil HQ who are stuck between the young contenders, councillors Peter Keane, and Michael J Crowe.
Cllr Crowe was the golden boy of HQ and was heralded as the find of the century. He was brought from being an Independent into Fianna Fáil by regional organiser and fellow Bohermore man Jackie Lally. However Lally has moved on and now appears to be grooming, the dashing solicitor from Salthill, Peter Keane for a Dáil bid. It is widely acknowledged within the organisation that Jackie and the Crowe duet is no longer an item. Dublin may now believe that Keane has the X factor.
Cowen, on his recent visit to Galway, stuck close to the Crowe brothers and joined them in their famous Bohermore watering hole. The Offaly Taoiseach, like Michael J and Ollie, is a publican’s son. Like the lads he is a team player with a close-knit group of loyal supporters and believes in the understated approach.
If Dep Fahey stays on the pitch he may well block Cllr Crowe from getting selected. At a recent meeting of the Fianna Fáil National Executive, the interview system was rejected, and the next selection process will be a convention.
Dep Fahey and Minister Ó Cuív are past masters of this selection process. The animosity within the organisation towards the manner in which Cllr Crowe got on the ticket the last time may stand against him next time. However if Dep Fahey and Minister Ó Cuív combine forces they will decide their running mate.
On this occasion they will not want a seasoned campaigner who polled 4,500 votes in the last general election and brought his brother onto the Galway City Council in the last locals. In all likelihood HQ will sanction a Fahey/O’Cuiv pact and the rookie from Salthill will be selected.
In that scenario Cllr Crowe will undoubtedly run as an Independent. Fianna Fáil members, whom the selection process shafted, and who then ran as Independents often do very well in local elections. Depending on how long it takes to get to a general election we may well have a new Fianna Fáil ticket and the beginning of the replacement of old men.
Dep Fahey first ran in 1981, more than 28 years ago, when he received 5,049 votes. That is 80 more votes than the 4,969 Cllr Crowe received on his first Dáil outing. On the next occasion Dep Fahey was elected and knocked out the stalwart Mark Killilea.
The elections at that time came in close proximity to each other, around that time the economy went into recession. Young pretenders knock out old stalwarts and it’s back to the future. Fianna Fáil elected three men in their thirties to the city council last June and it may soon be no party for old men!