David Leyshon looks at the parties and issues
Fianna Fail – this is the de Valera party founded in the mid twenties. It won its first election in 1928 (I think). It is the party that has been in power most since. Bertie Ahern is FF. They are republican but havn’t supported the IRA in their various military campaigns. In their modern form they are populist and well organised. It has often occurred to me that New Labour has learned some of its characteristics from FF. It is hard to pin them down on a left-right spectrum. They go where there are votes.
Leader – Bertie Ahern, tremendously popular in the country and with foreign leaders. Charlie Haughey once genuinely complimented Bertie by saying something along the lines that he was the most devious and cunning of his proteges.
Fine Gael – this is the Michael Collins party dating from 1922 that formed the first Free State Government. Reviled by republicans for compromising with the British in 1922 (leading to a civil war and the assassination of Collins). In their modern form they are like a mainstream centre-right European party (German CDU rather than Conservatives – very pro EU). They do not have sufficient support to rule alone these days and have been in coalition with Labour since I’ve been here. Leader – Enda Kenny who is somewhat lacklustre.
Progressive Democrats – I think they broke from FF two or three decades ago (not sure of exact details). In recent years they’ve been in coalition with FF. They are on the right economically and claim they keep FF on the straight and narrow. Other parties describe them as opportunists for allying with FF. Leader – Michael McDoughall is Tanaiste (deputy PM) and Justice Minister. A robust law and order type who regularly attacks Sinn Fein. I’ve seen no PD election posters so far and wonder why.
Labour – this is Old Labour. Think of Frank Dobson. Bitterly criticized Blair for allowing Bertie to be regaled at Westminster in the run up to the election. Solid support among working class voters but support eroded recently by Sinn Fein. Leader Pat Rabbitte – without doubt the best performer in the Dail. Reminds me of Alex Salmond, regularly destroys Bertie in debates.
Sinn Fein – this is the one party in Ireland that is well-known in the UK. They are well organised and have a lot or support in the poorer areas with ac leftish programme. Leader – Gerry Adams.
2. Campaign messages.
FG’s campaign points to waste of taxpayers money, high crime and the fact that the country’s infrastructure is still poor after years of prosperity.
FF’s campaign is simple and relentless. They say that they alone are responsible for Ireland’s prosperity and that to vote for others would risk a return to former times.
3. Who do I think will win?
FF are masters of appealing to Ireland’s voters. I don’t know who will win, but I do think that FF will do better than polls suggest. I’ll be voting but not betting. If I were to bet I’d bear in mind a modified version of one of politicalbetting’s favourite maxims “did anyone ever get rich by betting against Bertie?”.
Irish Election betting markets are here.