Thursday, 17 February 2011

My Predictions for the Irish General Election and Beyond

FIANNA FAIL is finished politically, for the time beng. The government will have a massive defeat.
FINE GAEL will form the next government, with a working majority
SINN FEIN will gain considerable support, as will
GREENS will not do well, having been in government with FIANNA FAIL
INDEPENDENTS will do very well and will form an Independent alliance

This situation will encourage the rise of SINN FEIN in the south, and when SINN FEIN is eventually in power in the North of Ireland as well as in the South the stage will be set for the Unification of Ireland to form a United Irish Republic.

A Man to Watch : Pearse Doherty

Labour and Sinn Féin in fight for left supremacy
30 January 2011 

‘We have a sophisticated electorate who know that they have to beware of snake oil salesmen offering solutions."

That warning from Labour Party deputy Pat Rabbitte came in a tense debate with Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty last week as a foretaste of the hostilities between the parties in this election campaign.

Doherty turned the screw on Labour last week when he described its agreement with Fine Gael to facilitate the rapid transit of the Finance Bill through the Dáil as a ‘‘grubby little deal’’.

Several weeks ago, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore ruled out an alliance of the left with Sinn Féin and candidates from the United Left Alliance, citing irreconcilable policy differences. Sinn Féin has retaliated, portraying Labour as yet another establishment party willing to cooperate with the consensus in Leinster House.

Sinn Féin is suggesting that whole sections of budget cuts be reversed, and that Ireland should unilaterally withdraw from the IMF/EU bailout deal and welch on the senior bondholders who lent to Irish banks.

Meanwhile, they believe the €18.7 billion needed to run hospitals, schools, council services and the rest of the public sector could be funded from the National Pension Reserve Fund and the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) on the assumption that Ireland could return to those same bond markets next year to borrow again.

It’s been described as an irresponsible and naive plan by all the major parties, but it will form a key part of Sinn Féin’s manifesto.

Unsurprisingly, it has proven attractive to a population feeling the pain of new budget taxes, welfare cuts and record unemployment.

Labour has grown jittery at Sinn Féin’s threat to the Gilmore Gale in key constituencies, while Fianna Fáil deputies fear the party’s climbing poll numbers will relegate them to the remotest opposition backbenches in the 31st Dáil.

Doherty, dubbed ‘the young gun’ by his rivals, is on a mission to hold all parties - but Labour in particular - to account for not pursuing its no confidence motion in the government last week.

Sinn Féin is already on the stump telling voters that Labour could have toppled a highly unstable government - and with it the budget - if it had pursued the motion to prevent the Finance Bill.

Labour has thus found itself outflanked on the left, yet can’t afford to scare off its middle ground support if it is to break through the 40 seat barrier in the general election.

Under Gilmore, Labour has won over large sections of Fianna Fáil’s traditional base.

It has enjoyed unprecedented popularity in the polls in the past 12months.But its support has dipped recently, and the party has a higher proportion of ‘floaters’ and voters who are less committed to casting their ballot on the day.

‘‘Labour has been overtaking Fine Gael in a couple of polls. But they’ve peaked too early and it’s hard to sustain that - they’ve been outflanked on the left and they’re starting to make mistakes and panic," said expert pollster Sean Donnelly.

‘‘People are very angry and they will be voting in this election campaign. Parties such as Sinn Féin and United Left Alliance will attract younger voters and angry voters. In Ireland we don’t really take to the streets: this will be our way of taking to the streets."

Sinn Féin has been a transfer unfriendly party, and traditionally there is a low turnout among its core support. However, this election is expected to break all the norms.

‘‘We have been putting it up to the Labour Party that the option of a left alternative should have been put before the Irish public. But this debate has now moved on," said Doherty, who is certain to regain his seat in Donegal South West.

Doherty is the star performer of the five Sinn Féin TDs - Aengus O’Snodaigh, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan and Caoimhghín O’Caoláin. In a recent Dáil speech, Taoiseach Brian Cowen irritably swatted the new deputy’s interruptions away, dubbing him a ‘‘rookie’’ - thereby boosting his profile even further.

The 32-year-old provided a colourful sideshow for the media last Monday night outside the Department of Finance, when he announced that Sinn Féin had been told by finance minister Brian Lenihan to leave a meeting with Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party to discuss the scheduling of the Finance Bill.

Sources at the meeting said when Doherty announced that Sinn Féin would try to block the bill, Lenihan asked Doherty and Morgan to leave as they had nothing practical to contribute. Morgan, however, wanted to stay on, suggesting they could make a constructive contribution on ‘‘minor points’’.

Sources said Fine Gael’s Michael Noonan impishly suggested to Lenihan that Sinn Féin should stay, adding that they might learn something useful about cooperation.

Sinn Féin only exited when a break was taken by the parties to allow the Dáil schedule to be photocopied. The joke later doing the rounds was that Doherty deserved an Oscar for his performance to the cameras.

All the parties are hoping that Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who is contesting Morgan’s Louth seat, could be the party’s biggest liability in the campaign.

It was a particularly bad week for Adams. The party leader - who unwittingly gained a title as Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead under the parliamentary rules of Westminster - was back in the wars over his knowledge about the economy.

In an interview with LMFM radio in Louth, he said his party would unilaterally withdraw from the IMF/EU bailout deal. However, he was unable to account for how it would raise the €18.7 billion needed to run the country in 2011. Doherty subsequently clarified that the plan was to transfer funds from the NTMA and the National Pension Reserve Fund to service day-to-day spending.

But the interview was seized on by the other parties as further evidence of Adams’ paucity of knowledge about the Irish economy. ‘‘Our position is no different to that of economists like David McWilliams, who is also saying this. People like Shane Ross have a similar position," Doherty said.

‘‘Iceland burned their bondholders and they returned to the markets and the rates that they’re getting are quite low. So it is possible. It does happen, and you wouldn’t get Nobel Prize-winners such as Paul Krugman arguing this issue on the back of an envelope," said Doherty.

The so-called rookie risks media over-exposure, though it’s a risk Sinn Féin is willing to take.

Last week, web links to a BBC Newsline interview with Gerry Adams were being gleefully posted by his critics. Adams was foggy on the details of the budget that he was criticising and was forced to admit that he didn’t know the children’s allowance rate, or the Vat rate for business.

It doesn’t bode well for the round of party leaders’ debates to come. Adams’ less-than-forensic grasp of the details of the economy was badly exposed in the 2007 leaders’ debate with PD leader Michael McDowell and Green Party leader John Gormley.

Fianna Fáil, under new leader Micheál Martin, has its own reasons for going on the attack, as it seeks to foil Sinn Féin’s plans to overtake the Soldiers of Destiny as the main opposition party. If Sinn Féin’s current poll ratings continue, it is on course to take up to 20 seats in the election.

Adams has always denied that he’s a former IRA commander and he will come under pressure on the campaign from the family of Jean McConville, who accuse him of ordering her murder and secret burial in 1972.

But younger voters in this election have only a residual memory of Sinn Féin’s history, and the whiff of sulphur that hangs over the party is unlikely to stem support for them, with the latest Red C poll showing support of 13 per cent, up from 7 per cent in the 2007 general election. Based on current poll numbers, Sinn Féin could add 15 ‘rookie’ TDs to its existing five seats in the Dáil after the next election. 

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