Enter The Dragon — presidential election boost could fasttrack Fianna Fail's time in the wilderness

Just a few weeks ago, a national newspaper predicted that Fianna Fail would not be in government again until at least 2025. It was felt that the start of its rehabilitation would commence in the local elections in 2014, spawning a whole new set of faces in the cumainn across the country and that the party would regrow in the 2015/16 General Election, getting bigger in opposition.

This premise held that they would continue in 2021 and they would finally return to power in 2025, reinvigorated, humbled and a world away from the party they once were at the turn of the century.

It was a scenario accepted by many in the organisation, and although they were horrified by the timeline, they accepted that there was more than an element of truth in it and many, especially the younger guns, relished the challenge of proving the pundits wrong.

However, in the past few weeks, there has been a return of the sprightliness in the steps of the battle-weary Soldiers of Destiny. The twinkle in the eye has been renewed because a situation has arisen that could change the entire timeline of their return to the glory days.

In a summer that saw the party dip their toes in and out of the presidential election with varying degrees of farce and mixed communications, the emergence of their proxy candidate has the party faithful privately rocking in their slippers.

It is bit like discovering a distant relative in America who has done something good. Someone the aunt always said was really a cousin but whose name she could never exactly remember. You want to claim him and tell all the neighbours, but you don’t want to do it til you've seen for yourself what he is made of. It is only in the last few days that Fianna Failers have begun bragging about the emergence of Sean Gallagher rising through the polls.

Although he has tried to throw off the shackles of his association with them, like Peter denying Christ three times before the cock crowed, it is a stance that they understand. They know that to succeed, he cannot be too much associated with them, the so-called toxic brand is a label most candidates would want to ditch. They know though that if he emerges unscathed through the next week, next Thursday he could inadvertently kickstart the party's rehabilitation, years ahead of its scheduled beginning. It would be a success that would possibly necessitate the replacement of many of the FF class of 2007, the few remaining who dined at the chosen tables. It would pave the way for the likes of Dara Calleary in Mayo and Michael McGrath in Cork to shape the direction of the new party and give them renewed hope that they could attack the 2014 elections with renewed vigour against a Government that will be then be weary of the battle to repair Brand Ireland.

Such a scenario could not have been envisaged just two months ago, but then it is hard to envisage that just this time last year, Fianna Fail were still in power with all the familiar faces at the Cabinet table. A year is a long time in politics. The next week could be even longer.

The next opinion poll this weekend will be telling because this is a week devoid of drama in the race, and it will give a truer picture of where the parties and candidates stand as they face the public for the last time next Monday night. Like all good dramas though, there is a feeling that this one could have a sting in the tail yet. There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.



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