The Irish Mail on Sunday
A bleak day for the centre and triumph on the fringes
They managed to shield themselves from a major beating – just. The raft of recent controversies – GSOC, Garda whistleblowers, medical cards and water charges – could have cost them dearly but the shield of a perceived Quisling coalition partner deflected much of the flak.
A Cabinet reshuffle is likely in the coming weeks but that will challenge Labour more than it does Fine Gael. They were always going to get a kicking for rubber-stamping four years of austerity but could not have anticipated losing even the European seat in Dublin. MEP Phil Prendergast sent a smoke signal of unrest when she called for Eamon Gilmore’s resignation.
The ‘shellacking’ they suffered means all eyes are on Joan Burton and whether she launches a leadership challenge. ‘A lot done, more to do’ summed up Fianna Fáil’s day as they clawed back some support. Mary Hanafin’s successful defiance of Micheál Martin’s orders undermines his authority but he will be encouraged they are in with a chance of three European seats. A backseat role for them for some time yet.
If Gilmore is the leader most likely to be sacked, Martin isn’t far behind him. Sinn Féin made major strides, mainly by virtue of not having held power before. And the fresh faces of candidates such as Lynn Boylan allowed the party to distance itself from its past as well as its role in the austerity measures.
Doubts over the party’s past and economic knowledge remain and it will be interesting to see how they court dubious middle-class voters.
Labour’s collapse gave Independents an open goal and many took the opportunity convincingly. The Greens even managed to shake off some of the fleas from their last laying down with power. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan tapped into a growing Euroscepticism in rural areas.
Mid-term elections offer voters a safe way of kicking governments. They may abandon Independents in a general election.