Potential to elect next taoiseach rests with the people of Mayo

Grassroots - An inside look at local politics

Beverly Flynn — quitting Fianna Fáil.

Beverly Flynn — quitting Fianna Fáil.

FINE GAEL

New Year, New you, so the saying goes - and for the people of Mayo, 2011 will certainly prove to be a testing year. Starting right now, the campaign to elect a new government raises a divisive issue in the county as much of the potential for electing the next taoiseach of the country — in the form of hotly tipped Enda Kenny — rests in our hands. Therefore, the support of local constituents for their Fine Gael front man is all the more vital between now and March, when the next general election is scheduled to take place. It is only through a strong showing here that the rest of the country can be expected to take its cue.

Despite the fact that poll after poll shows Fine Gael as the most popular political party right now, tipping it to inevitably hold majority seating in the Dáil come the spring, if the good people of Mayo are seen as anything less than hugely enthusiastic in their support of Deputy Kenny as the next taoiseach, the knock-on effect could well spell damage for the Fine Gael party as a whole.

Such a likelihood would be largely due to one crucial factor, which is that a massive percentage of voters (40 per cent at least ) remain — and will remain — undecided up until the last minute. For Fine Gael to capture these votes it is crucial that such questioning individuals judge the backing of Enda Kenny not only within his own party but fundamentally on his home turf, as nothing less than 100 per cent. The slightest hesitation from any Mayo person, whether it be captured through public interview or uttered within hearing of hungry ears, could consequently prove fateful. At the same time, with media interest in the county expected to skyrocket, Mayo people must remain on their guard. They cannot simply go into this election smiling out of both sides of their mouths trying to look mysterious. Their message must be loud and clear well in advance — do they, or do they not, want their county man Enda Kenny as taoiseach in the next government, along with the rest of his political team in Mayo — sitting TDs Michael Ring, John O’Mahony and new candidate, Cllr Michelle Mulherin. The onus to decide such an important matter rests on their shoulders.

FIANNA FÁIL

Meanwhile for those decidedly not of the Fine Gael persuasion looking to strengthen the ever-dwindling power of Fianna Fáil in Mayo, the recent declaration by Castlebar TD Beverley Flynn that she is to completely exit politics before the general election has only served to further rattle the cage of this already embattled party. Ballina based Dara Calleary — who has put in a commendable performance since being appointed junior minister and who allegedly went so far this week as to offer himself up as the next leader of the party — certainly seems deserving of retaining his seat, but is Fianna Fáil in Mayo strong enough to survive the national crisis hitting its party? Are the people of Mayo even seeking another strong local Fianna Fáil candidate to fight back against damage done? Of course they are.

Despite currently having ownership of just two of the five seats in the county, Mayo is historically a Fianna Fáil stronghold with party links and love of cronyism and clientelism extending far and wide. Whippings and beatings over the years have of course registered, particularly following Michael Ring’s triumphant capture of a seat from Fianna Fáil’s Beverley Flynn back in 1994; nonetheless, even now with political pundits wagering that Fianna Fáil will be hammered in the upcoming election, nobody should dare to write off this party which for so many represents their one true family.

Outlandish? Perhaps, but in politics everything is possible. It must be remembered that while blamed as the party responsible for bringing down the economy, Fianna Fáil is equally associated with having created — or at least presided over — the booming Celtic Tiger years - and it is this state of bliss people are harkening back to and longing for; we want a second chance; we know now that we did wrong in putting the acquisition of property above all else; we have learned our lesson, but just want a return to the good times. Perhaps if Fianna Fáil TDs were given one more stab at it, they might at least know how to handle things better next time around.

Regardless of how or why Beverley has chosen to exit politics, it cannot be denied that her fighting performance over the years and her able representation of Mayo in Dáil Éireann certainly attracted attention. While no immediate successor of similar calibre in the county town of Castlebar comes to mind, this need not necessarily prove a problem. The general state of disarray in Irish politics means that new and never-before run candidates for the party will stand just as much chance of being elected as the old reliables. What people want is candidates with a vision of a prosperous Ireland once more, who can offer realistic and ambitious plans on how to achieve it. Talk about a Seanad abolition or children’s rights referendum are not rated as emergency themes right now when businesses and the industrial sector are crying out for proper roads, water, and utility services throughout Ireland, while job-seekers and employers desperately want a stop put to the growing hundreds of thousands leaving Ireland to emigrate to a new life abroad.

With news still awaited from party headquarters as to the strategy planned going into election 2011, and the number of candidates to run, patience is already starting to wear thin on the issue of the future for Fianna Fail in Mayo.

LABOUR AND SINN FÉIN

Those standing for the less represented parties in Mayo — Labour candidate Jerry Cowley and potentially Gerry Murray for Sinn Fein — will also have their work cut out for them over the coming weeks. The Labour Party needs to be seen to row in much more visibly behind Dr Cowley if it is serious about pushing for a seat in Mayo. Dr Cowley already has a proven following from his previous election as an Independent TD, and would still be a valuable asset in Mayo for keeping an eye on health services for the county. Sinn Féin meanwhile has been building up quite a ball of steam in the county over the last year or two, gaining new followers who would quite happily vote for a Sinn Féin TD in the county if given the chance.

INDEPENDENTS

As for any Independents running in the upcoming general election, anyone who decides to declare has as good a chance as anyone else of securing a seat. With polls predicting Independents are unlikely to hold sway in the make-up of the new Dáil, Independent politicians nonetheless always retain a certain power when courting favours from government - something of which Mayo people are well aware.

LET THE FUN BEGIN

So as the new year finally kicks into action and the count-down to General Election 2011 is now on, it is time to let the fun begin. Here in the Mayo Advertiser we look forward to hearing your views on exactly how you would like the election to pan out in Mayo. Let us know at [email protected]

 

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