Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are both circling the carcass that was the general election of February 8th. Reeling from the result shook the old party establishment that has dominated Ireland since the formation of the state. The results of the election left Fine Gael the third-most popular party in Ireland, having lost more than 20% of their seats and brought in Sinn Féin from the political fringes and onto the Government formation table.
Time moves fast in politics and pandemics, it has been over two months, and Fine Gael has clung onto power and looks set to move into a coalition with Fianna Fáil.
A coalition could be short-sighted on Fianna Fáil’s leader Micheal Martin part. Perhaps a better alternative for his party would be to lead them out of their biggest defeat in 2011 to a respectable party again (I say that super loosely). Mr Martin’s lust for power will move Fianna Fáil back into a precarious position; why? There is going to be fallback from this pandemic, whichever party in charge is going to be in the voters firing line.
It appears, for now, that Labour and the Green party have both learnt this lesson the hard way after both parties had seen there support decimated after going into power with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil during times of uncertainty.
2008’s financial crises changed the political landscape in Ireland. Voters have been baying for change since 2011; Fianna Fáil suffered a historic and devastating defeat, with its support estimated at only 15% – its worst performance since Eamon De Valera founded it in the 1920s. Fine Gael election brought to an end Fianna Fáil 14 consecutive years in Cabinet on the back of three successful elections in 1997, 2002 and 2007. It reshaped a political system that Fianna Fáil had previously dominated for more than half a century, holding an apparently permanent plurality of votes and parliamentary seats since 1932 and spending more than 61 of the past 79 years in government (source here)
Worst still for the Green Party, after almost 22 years in parliament, lost all of its six seats while Sinn Féin made an electoral breakthrough, more than tripling the number of seats that it won in 2007; While Labour had one of the best results in its history
Subsequent elections results thereafter 2011 indicate that Ireland still wanted change, first by voting Fine Gael 2011 in and Fianna Fáil out.
It became apparent that Fine Gael’s change was not enough, Voters didn’t want to stay the course of Fine Gael’s policies, a rental crises,unprecedented homelessness and ever growing waiting list in hospitals.
2016 saw the formation of the “rainbow coalition”- a confidence and supply agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael propped up by independents.
The Irish Labour party had the worst general election in its history, five years after its best. The party saw its representation in our national parliament fall from 37 to 7 – an 81% collapse.
The Green’s and Labour’s fate should serve as a warning to Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin is now seen as a viable alternative, perhaps be the change that the Irish voter wants.
Recent local election’s has seen a growth in “greener” politics and an interest again for change.
Perhaps Mr Martin should look at recent history and be consigned to the fact that he will be the first leader of Fianna Fáil history not to move into power. Or, is personal ambition always going to be bigger than the party?
Mr Martin only has to look at Fine Gael to see how personal ambition has rocked their party; Fine Gael has become a party of looks over substance this has translated into them clinging onto power in a crises. Granted most parties do that.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael going into power as a coalition indicates that there is no difference in their policies, that both party represent “more of the same” and not “change”.
If Mr Martin leads his party carefully, there might be for them, “a future to look forward to”.