While the implosion of unregulated free market capitalism blew the PDs off the front pages of the nation’s newspapers, the botched, badly planned, and badly sold Budget 09 might have them back on it again.
The PDs are a dead duck party and between the fall of laissez-faire capitalism, the spiteful attempt to rob the pensioners of the medical cards, and those plans for the co-location of hospitals, the party’s ideology has been exposed as flawed and indeed anti-society (Oh didn’t Insider get pleasure from seeing Mary Harney squirm on RTÉ news on Tuesday! ).
Cllr Tom Welby and Cllr Terry O’Flaherty recognised this and resigned from the party this week.
Unfortunately for them, mere hours after going public on their resignations, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced the (first ) Government U-turn on the medical cards which will see 95 per cent of over 70s will qualify to keep them.
Insider is nothing if not a cynic and has to say that the Welby and O’Flaherty move was an empty gesture. The party is being wound up anyway and both had previously announced they were going Independent at the next local election. Coming just before the Government U-turn, the announcement was also bad timing.
The fallout from the Budget will have a major impact on the local elections though. Already Fianna Fáilers in Galway city and county recognise that the public are salivating at the prospect of delivering a hammer blow to them in June’s local elections.
What is also worth noting is this - the Budget debacle will affect the former PDs and will determine under which banner they run next summer. In other words we are back to Noel Grealish.
Before free market capitalism imploded and plunged the world into an economic downturn, Dep Grealish was the focus of the nation with everyone asking, ‘When will he join Fianna Fáil? Will Cllr Declan McDonnell and Cllr Jim Cuddy go with him?’
Given what’s happened over the past nine days, would any of them feel comfortable joining FF now? Would it even be wise? Indeed Insider is reminded of the great American short story writer Ambrose Bierce and his definition of politics: “Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.”
Right now, publicly stating you are joining FF is like begging for the death of your political career.
In this light, the current crisis buys Dep Grealish more time to dither about what he will do next, but given the depth of public outrage there is at the moment, there are a number of questions he must ask himself and must answer before he can realistically make any move:
1 ) Is it right to join Fianna Fáil in the current climate?
2 ) Will it be worth joining them the longer the economic downturn goes on?
3 ) If they continue to handle the economy poorly, is it wiser to avoid FF if I want to keep my Galway West seat in 2012?
The current crisis gives him (and McDonnell and Cuddy ) the option of going Independent and telling people ‘I would have joined Fianna Fáil but not after that Budget!’
Politics being politics, by this time next year everyone might have moved on and new issues replaced the current ones - but don’t bet on it. Remember the ‘readjustments’ in 2002 and how people waited for two years to give Fianna Fáil a kicking in the local elections when they lost numerous seats?
Public anger is far, far greater this time than in 2002 and the public is unlikely to be in a forgiving mood eight months (and not two years ) from now. New issues will arrive but they are likely to be economic and not of the good news variety. No matter how the Government handles them, they are also likely to be unpopular.
Given that, perhaps it’s best for Grealish, McDonnell, and Cuddy to go solo if they want to retain their seats.