What is Michael J Crowe up to now? First there was the ‘I’m sick of trees’ comment, then there was the one man battle against the Galway Alliance Against War, and now he says he is “winding down” from politics - this is despite having three years left of his term as a councillor.
Last week Cllr Crowe stated publicly that he would be taking a less active role in politics once his mayoralty concludes in June. “I will see out my mayorship,” he said. “I will be winding it down so to speak. Politics was my priority but that won’t continue now.”
Instead he said he would devote more of his time to business interests: “I will still fulfil my role as a councillor and as a public representative, but my business interests and some other area of my life will now be given priority.”
Giving the hammering he took at the local election, few were surprised that to hear of this loss of appetite for politics. However it was with his
However the coup de grâce came with the following statement: “I’m not saying I will never run for the Dáil again, but realistically it will be four or five years before we have another election and I need to do something in the meantime.”
There were those who felt Cllr Crowe was a ‘careerist’ politician, more focussed on making his way up the ladder, rather than anything else, and if the Bohermore man ever wanted to hand his enemies ammunition, he did it in spades with that final remark.
It is one thing to say you are winding down, but that “I need to do something in the meantime” will give rise to accusations and allegations that he sees politics only in terms of the prestige and titles it brings him and not as a service to the community.
Cllr Crowe will object and call that unfair, but with his “I need to do something in the meantime” remark he has made a noose for his own neck and it is a phrase that will come back to haunt him.
Think about it: If Cllr Crowe contests the 2016 General Election it will be after three years of low key, minimal, council activity and voters will ask ‘Where were you all this time?’
He can reply that he was looking after his businesses, to which they can say: ‘Well go look after them then. It’s obvious that that’s where your interest lies and not in politics. Why, when you stepped back from active politics do you suddenly want to represent us in the Dáil now? What is to say you won’t get tired of it and ‘wind down’ from that too? So why then should I vote for you?’
Down and out
So what has prompted Cllr Crowe to take a step back? Simple, the annihilation he suffered at the polls in February’s General Election.
Cllr Crowe first ran for the Dáil in 2007. Back then he received a first preference vote of 4,969 and lasted until the final count with a combined vote of 7,159. In 2011 he polled just 1,814 and was eliminated on the fourth count with just 1,895 votes.
Election 2011 was never going to be good for Fianna Fáil - not after what it had done to our State and its citizens - but by any stretch that was some level of rejection by the people. Not only did his vote collapse - coming 12th in a poll of 17 candidates - Mayor Crowe was comprehensively outpolled by Hildegarde Naughton, who has only been a councillor for little more than 18 months, as opposed to Mayor Crowe’s seven years; and by Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who has no council seat. He was also convincingly outpolled by his party rival Frank Fahey - who lost his seat.
What is also noteworthy is that Mayor Crowe was also very much adrift from the rest of the field.
Derek Nolan, Brian Walsh, Éamon Ó Cuív, Noel Grealish, Catherine Connolly, Fidelma Healy Eames, and later Sean Kyne, were the contenders for the five seats. Cllr Crowe was c3,000 behind the lowest polling of these.
Then there were The Gang of Four - Fahey, Ó Clochartaigh, Naughton, and Tom Welby - in the 3,000 - 3,500 range, who although not contenders, at least polled a notable vote. Admittedly for Fahey this was disappointing but the others had the right to feel encouraged by their showing and can look to future local and national elections with some confidence.
Cllr Crowe did not even fit in here. He ended up in the also-ran/no hopers category with Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin - a position both must find utterly galling.
Given all the above, it is understandable that Cllr Crowe’s enthusiasm for politics would have taken a battering and that he wants to wind down. Yet such a course of action will be seen as a kind of repudiation of the voters who elected him in 2009.
Michael J Crowe may have received no mandate from the people of Galway West to represent them in the Dáil but his mandate to represent the people of Galway City Centre still stands for another three years.
Furthermore he cannot “still fulfil my role as a councillor and as a public representative” while adhering to the view that “I will be winding it down...politics was my priority but that won’t continue now”.
It’s one or the other, and the voters of Galway City Centre deserve better than these contradictory statements. If he wishes to prove to his critics that he is not ‘only in it for the Dáil seat and the prestige’, then he has to resolve this.
“I need to do something in the meantime.” There are many levels on which this statement is objectionable, one of them being the underlying assumption that there will be ‘a next time’. The reality is however, there more than likely will not be.
It is clear Cllr Crowe made a serious tactical error in running in Election 2011. As Insider said earlier, this was never going to be a good election for FF - after destroying the economy and punishing the public for the reckless and dangerous behaviour of the bankers, developers, and FF, what did the party expect? - and FF was not going to retain its two seats in Galway West, so running three was at best deluded and at worst arrogant.
Fianna Fáil cannot blame Cllr Crowe for their not taking a second seat. Running three candidates did not split the party vote because, well Cllr Crowe hardly got any votes and Frank Fahey did not get anywhere near enough, their combined total vote was 5,957 - c3,400 - 3,800 fewer than Noel Grealish and Sean Kyne who were elected to the fourth and fifth seats without having reached the quota.
Considering his performance in February’s election Cllr Crowe may have been deluding himself in thinking he would have a chance at in 2016, but had he not run in 2011, he would at least not have this massive blot on his copybook.
In fact he did something arguably far worse by polling such a derisory vote. Fianna Fáil must realise that its current 16/17 per cent level of support will be the normal state of affairs for a very long time to come. The party also knows it needs to win back seats - there is no Fianna Fáil TD in 16 out of the 26 counties.
A candidate who could poll only 1,895 votes and was trounced by less experienced councillors and candidates with no council seat is not someone the party will look to rebuild its fortunes in Galway West.
Given all the above and despite the “I need to do something in the meantime” comment, we are likely to be looking at a post-Mike Crowe political landscape. So what might this mean?
Should he stand down at the next local elections in 2014 it could pave the way for a comeback from Mary Leahy, should she be interested.
There is also this to consider; the recent Sunday Business Post poll shows a lot of stability post-election with parties largely on the same support as two months ago. Granted it is still the honeymoon period and must be taken with a big health warning, but any idea Fianna Fáil had that after the voters had delivered their revenge things would revert to more ‘normal’ levels of support for it have been dispelled.
Should Fianna Fáil remain in the 17-19 per cent bracket, what are the implications for the 2014 Local Elections? In Galway City East the General Election tallies show it on 18.56 per cent (1.3 quotas ) which means FF will hold its seat here but have little chance of challenging for a second.
The problem is this is Cllr Crowe’s ward. If he is ‘winding down’, then will be actually be running in 2014? If he does run, might he not have ‘stepped back’ so much that he not receive sufficient votes? If Mary Leahy runs, could she take advantage of this and grab the seat?
Galway City Central is the stomping ground of Cllr Crowe’s brother Ollie, but with tallies on 16.5 per cent this spells trouble. It would put FF well short of the 20 per cent required here for a seat. If the party just runs Ollie Crowe, that might be enough to scrape home. FF should do it, but the party cannot afford to take any chances.
Insider began by asking ‘What is Michael J Crowe up to now?’ Having analysed the statements and statistics, it might be a case of the ‘take-Crowe-ver’ of Fianna Fáil is coming to an end and that the party in Galway is heading into a period of uncertainty, and maybe even decline.