#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 8°C Friday 15 January 2021

Enda Kenny is almost certainly going to be returned as Taoiseach

The question of the election of 2016 will be: “Who will Fine Gael rule with, and how long will it last?”

Aaron McKenna

IF THERE’S ONE thing we’re learning clearly as the 2016 general election fast approaches, it is that voters are, as much as the politicians they profess to hate so much, all talk.

For years now we’ve been hearing from voters about how they want a new politics with new parties. In reality, the new parties that have organised are getting support levels measured within the margin of error for polling companies; and we have a clear outcome for the 2016 election in view.

Enda Kenny is almost certainly going to be returned as Taoiseach if the current strong polling trends hold true. It’s not just that Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams have contrived to be ruled out of any truly workable coalition by numbers: Their parties do not have sufficient support, at around or under 20% each depending on the poll, to be credible contenders to lead a government.

It takes support somewhere in the mid-40’s for parties to win an overall majority. You can rule with a small coalition partner around 40%, and you need either a series of them or a large party with more than 15 seats to rule if you’re in the mid-30’s.

Fine Gael’s support is hardening 

Currently, the only single party sitting in the mid-30’s is Fine Gael, and its support has been hardening as we approach the election.

The question of the election of 2016 will be: “Who will Fine Gael rule with, and how long will it last?”

You can wail and gnash your teeth and tell us Enda Kenny is the most unpopular leader of the country since King George, but as voters you have not given substantial support to any credible opposition or even to potential new coalition partners.

Voters clearly feel that Fianna Fáil is not fit for a return to government, and any talk of them being in a position to lead one after the next election is rather fanciful unless they were to team up with Sinn Féin and a ragbag of independents and others.

Scary, but unlikely as both parties might be well aware of the damage they could do to themselves. Better to stay in opposition and be responsible for nothing other than moaning about what the government is doing.

Fianna Fáil have had five years to get their polling out of the low-20’s, and if it’s not showing consistent and strong gains by now it’s unlikely to over the next eight weeks. Similarly a lot of folks, even voters on the left, have issues with Sinn Féin for a variety of obvious reasons from the political to the historical.

A call for new politics hasn’t had the support needed

Voters have instead called for some sort of new politics. In their pursuit of it, they have lent eye watering amounts of support to independents; and left the new parties that have organised into coherent groups with support levels within the polling margin of error.

The Social Democrats and Renua are the best picks of the new bunch. They are offering a relatively straightforward choice: One is in favour of left wing policies, and one of right wing policies. More spending or less tax. Take your pick. Instead of supporting these parties, voters continue to pile in on independents in the hope of change.

With all due respect, we’ve had a long enough experience of independents to know that this is unlikely to bear fruit. They are too disparate a group to form coherent policy positions and help form a stable government.

The result of this run to independents and refusal to grow up and make a choice is that there is a pool of 30% plus of votes that will go to candidates who usually turn out to be ineffective. For every thoughtful, influential independent like Stephen Donnelly or Catherine Murphy (both of whom, incidentally, went into a party together), you get Mick Wallace and his tax affairs and publicans like Michael Healy-Rae; who said this week that he thinks drink driving does no harm.

Even if voters flocked to the alphabet left it would produce a bigger wind of change. Instead, it seems that as a group we will send very few effective new faces to the Dail, produce small but loud protest groups; and a whole rabble of independents who will be one term wonders if historical voting patterns hold true.

New parties 

All polls show that Fine Gael will return to government. The choice you really have now to affect the course of things over the coming five years is if you think they should win a majority; or if you vote in a group like the Social Democrats or Renua who could augment or even replace Labour as their coalition partner.

You might get lucky and vote for an independent who could also be induced to support the government, as the Healy-Rae’s profited from so well during Bertie’s first 1997 minority administration; but that’s a long shot.

Some people think no stable government will emerge. They’re wrong, and Bertie’s 1997 government proves why: A minority government propped up by independents, it was one of the most stable in the country for years. Why? Because the economic times were good, and all those TDs just elected didn’t want to return to the country. Wait till your principled new politics independent makes it in and looks at his or her comfortable office, their two personal assistants and receipt free expenses system in their new €90k a year job. Will they want to head back out in the rain and the wind to risk losing their seat? Will they heck.

It’s going to be a dull few weeks till the election, while everyone in politics sets out their vision for ruling the country whilst simultaneously ruling themselves out of government.

As for voters, you’ve had five years to help new politics emerge. Good luck with the Healy-Rae’s and Mick Wallace’s of this world, I hope they serve you well from the back end of the opposition benches after the election.

Aaron McKenna is a businessman on columnist for TheJournal.ie. You can follow him on Twitter here

 Read: Sinn Féin welcomes involvement of former IRA prisoners in election campaign>

Read: ‘Even if I got a cheque for €100 million – I couldn’t fix this overnight’>

About the author:

Read next: