It’s official – the civil war is over
If the election of 2011 is remembered for one thing it will be the end of the civil war. The fighting – with guns at least – finished nearly 90 years ago, but the political divisions exist to this day. The natural division in Ireland in politics was not between left and right but between the pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty sides, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The rivalry went on long after the original issues had been resolved.
Now it’s clear that voters have lost any wariness they may have had about switching between the two. As John Drennan explains in the Sunday Independent, the details of their latest opinion poll clearly show that 31 per cent of those who voted FF in the last election have switched to FG now. Only half as many have moved to Labour.
‘This is an election where many myths are being shattered but one of the biggest ones to go is the notion that rather like Celtic versus Rangers, a FF voter would never transfer to FG.’
Fine Gael, he explains, are getting around the same proportion of votes from all classes, becoming a catch-all party just like Fianna Fáil traditionally have been. But the closer they get to an overall majority, the bigger a problem they face: the closer they get to an overall majority, the harder it will be to stomach a coalition. “Enda Kenny’s party would revolt,” he writes, “if its dear leader attempted to suggest that Fine Gael should sacrifice six Cabinet seats in pursuit of a ‘safe’ 30-seat majority.”
Yet that majority may be outside their grasp. Michael McDowell in the same newspaper adds a dash of realism. The government’s collapse has taken them by surprise – the Fine Gael strategy was based on a much lower expectation of support and they are poorly placed to capitalise on their success. The much-awaited group of Independents ready to do a deal to put Enda Kenny in office may not actually exist: “there are simply not going to be five, six, seven or eight independents who share the FG outlook on what should be done now. At the most, I see three.”
In addition, Fianna Fáil voters are beginning to have an incentive not to switch to FF. If Fine Gael get an overall majority, that will leave Eamonn Gilmore as leader of the opposition and Michéal Martin with not much to do except compete for attention with Gerry Adams. And as McDowell points out, there are practical benefits for the potential coalition parties: “The great advantage of going into coalition for both FG and Labour is that both parties will have a perfect alibi for abandoning their manifesto promises.”
A final incentive: for many of the Labour deputies, this may be their last shot at government. Over at Irish Polling Report, Dotski comments on the demographics: “many of the PLP are quite old. Gilmore at 55 not so much, but unless the next GE is a snap one, many of their big guns won’t be running. Rabbitte is 61, Quinn is 64, Burton is 62. Shorthall at 56 would also be pushing it in 5 years time.”
And meanwhile over in Dublin South Central, Green candidate Oisín Ó hAlmhain is showing the strain: “Sunday papers + 15 month old taking first steps while parent canvassing + parent tired because of canvassing” http://t.co/dWlG9KQ