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 will look at Galway West today, and return to Galway East in the coming weeks. Insider cannot recall a time of more political uncertainty, and he 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 the 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.
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 Minister O'Cuiv, who Insider knows works hard and delivers for this area. Will this be enough to save him? Even those pundits who see a nightmare result for FF would not dare suggest Minister O' Cuiv's seat as being in danger. After all he has done for Galway West, it is impossible not to see him returned to the 31st Dail. And what about Deputy Fahey, is a lifetime's work on behalf of the people of Galway to be discarded by a hostile electorate? Deputy Fahey has suffered the slings and arrows of the electorate's displeasure in the past, but has emerged from those difficulties, and seems set to take on all comers in the latest battle. Working day and night on our behalf, Insider would take no pleasure in seeing this committed Galwegian lose out. And if he does lose out, who will then best represent the city's interests in Leinster House? Or Cllr Crowe, he is relatively untainted by the national failures of FF, so maybe voting for him is one way of registering Insider's protest, but not abandoning the party completely. These are still the same men Insider voted for a few short years ago, and not some destroyers of Ireland, as they have been so recently, and unfairly, painted. They 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 won’t abandon my local man, and if he is to lose out, Insider will still be able to look him in the eye and tell him Insider looked after him. It wasn't Insider who abandoned him in his 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. The Taoiseach, and Finance Minister's, performance has been dismal, with an ever changing, and ever worsening, story. Sadly, some people are confusing Minister Lenihan's fluency and good articulation of his case, with him actually doing his job. He's a reasonable debater, as are all of his profession, but a useless Minister. 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.
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, Bruton and Noonan. Can Deputy Kenny do for Ireland what he did for FG? 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. Senator Healy Eames must be in the driving seat, contesting her third general election. She has done, and continues to do, the hard work. She ran for FG when it was neither popular nor profitable, and has earned the right to be considered the party's number one candidate. With her expertise in the area of education, she is well placed in a university city where there is a great emphasis on this area. Cllr Walsh is also very well placed, a young businessman in the city, he has the profile of the type of politician we always say we want. Now we have our chance to elect him to the Dail also. Don't rule out the emergence of a strong third Fine Gael candidate from Connemara, who won’t be just acting as a sweeper. Cllr Kyne polled a respectable 1,912 votes the last time, and with the absence of Deputy McCormack, could emerge as a surprise contender. It would be remiss of Insider not to acknowledge the contribution of Deputy Mc Cormack, as his name won’t be on the ballot paper for the first time in almost 30 years. The manner of his departure was unsatisfactory, and in hindsight he may regret not withdrawing either before, or on the day of, the convention. But Deputy McCormack has always been an honourable man, and commitments would have been given to lifelong supporters in advance of the convention, which it would have been extremely difficult to renege on. He can leave the stage with his head held high, and take comfort from the fact that for the past few decades, when the people of Galway were asked did they want him in the Dail, the answer was 'yes'.
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 14 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.
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. Derek Nolan is well placed to tap into the cynicism of the public regarding an older generation of politicians. Assuming he can pick up some of the Michael D votes, and repeat the Labour performance of the 2009 local elections, a seat is there for the taking. A breath of fresh air, he could represent well a city that views itself as youthful and energetic.
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.
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.
Sinn Fein, Greens
Insider believes the Greens have some nice people in the party, but they should probably stay out of politics. Indeed, it appears the electorate is about to make that decision for them. Sinn Fein have some interesting younger candidates, who may form the basis of a true socialist party in the coming years. Insider's memory is still too full of images of the last thirty years to view SF as solely a political party. They must 'retire' a number of senior party figures if they want us to view them as a real political option, and to be taken seriously as such by the vast majority. Running Mr Adams in Louth is a move that will backfire in Insider's opinion. He was humiliated by Michael McDowell in the last election campaign, and Insider hopes he has acquired some knowledge of the economic situation in the Republic to avoid a repeat.
There are some interesting Independents, and no doubt a number will be elected to the next Dail. Unfortunately for them, it looks like the days of Government dependence of a the votes of a few non-party TD's are coming to an end. Deputy Grealish is a proven winner in electoral contests, and has a reasonable chance of returning to the Dail in election 2011. Unfortunately for him, he is unlikely to be able to tap into the votes of those who are fed up with the overall system, as he was a party man and could be viewed as part of the political establishment. Those who have expressed most outrage at the political system are more likely to turn to Independent candidates such as Catherine Connolly, and she is also a real contender for a seat. What she would be able to achieve if elected is another matter, and would depend on the Dail arithmetic.