Coalition clings to power
The Dublin government appears determined to cling to power despite its overwhelming rejection at the hands of voters in the 26 Counties.
Roughly three quarters of the people in the south rejected the coalition parties, Fianna Fail and the Greens. Both parties suffered heavy losses in their representation in Brussels and on local city and county councils across the state. The main opposition party, Fine Gael, Labour and more radical left wing organisations were the main beneficiaries,
For the first time in its history, Fine Gael, led by Enda Kenny, won more support in a statewide election than Fianna Fail.
Socialists scored a historic breakthrough in Dublin in both the local and Europeran elections, with veteran Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins securing election to the European Parliament.
Speaking in the Dublin parliament, Kenny told the Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader Brian Cowen that “if he has any respect for the Irish people, who he leads politically, he will accept that following Friday’s disaster for his government, including his Green Party colleagues, he has no mandate or authority to continue in government and that he and his colleagues are deluding themselves if they believe they are losing support because they have faced tough decisions.”
In the Dail debate, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore also attacked the ‘crony capitalism’ of the corporate sector of “you sit on my board and I’ll sit on your board”.
“We need political change in this country,” he said. “For the past decade people were used to having the country run on auto-pilot. No matter what problem arose, there was always money to be thrown at it.”
Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain pointed out that, of the three parties that negotiated the original Programme for Government in 2007, the Progressive Democrats no longer existed, the Greens had been reduced to three county councillors and Fianna Fail’s support base had been depleted.
Speaking to the press following the outcome of the election, Gerry Adams said the Dublin government had now lost the moral authority to govern.
“People need hope and positive hard nosed leadership to turn around the economy in the interests of working people.
“In local councils throughout the state parties with a commitment to equality must set aside differences and work in the common good,” he said.
Mr Adams said “the big story” of the elections was that “ tere is a lot of work to be done if a just and fair society is to be established on this island.”
The vast majority of people want a rights based, decent and fair system of governance, he said.
“An alliance for change must be built. The broad left did well in this election. But the left is fragmented. Unity needs to be built. That will take time but it doesnt have to wait until the next election. That work must start now.
“In local councils throughout the state parties with a commitment to equality must set aside differences and work in the common good.
“The government has lost the moral authority to govern. But it is not good enough to be against government policy. People need hope and positive hard nosed leadership to turn around the economy in the interests of working people.
Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald released a defiant statement, despite being edged out of her seat in Europe in the reduced Dublin constituency. Congratulating Joe Higgins on his election success, she vowed to press on with her political efforts.
“While disappointed I just missed out taking the third seat, I am very proud to have had the privilege of representing Dublin in Europe over the past 5 years,” she said.
“I will continue for stand up for ordinary Dubliners and be a voice for those this government wants to trample on,” she said.
“To the people of Dublin, you have shown that voting does matter and there is a growing momentum for change. The Government has been sent a strong and clear message from you that they need to go.
“Together we can build on that momentum and start to turn this country around.”
Elsewhere, Toireasa Ferris performed very well for Sinn Féin in the South constituency but lost out to Labour senator Alan Kelly for the third seat in the constituency.
Kathleen Funchion and Tomas Sharkey raised their profile in the East while the decision by Fianna Fail’s Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher’s to run in the North West damaged Councillor Padraic Mac Lochlainn’s chances of winning a European seat.
Sinn Féin lost five council seats in Dublin, where Labour now dominates, and suffered setbacks in Waterford city, Wexford and Galway.
There were gains elsewhere with a doubling of its seats in Cork city, now holding four, and Maurice Quinlivan secured a seat on Limerick City Council. There were gains in Mayo and a number of other rural areas, allowing the party to achieve representation in 31 out of the 32 counties.
The party also welcomed the re-election of former TD Sean Crowe to South Dublin County Council. However, it suffered a blow when long-time party activist and general election candidate Daithi Doolan lost his seat in the south-east inner city.
In the Dublin Central by-election Councillor Christy Burke fell short, with with the seat being taken by Independent Maureen O’Sullivan. His subsequent resignation, despite securing re-election as a Sinn Féin candidate onto the city council, dramatically exposed the party’s fault lines in Dublin. A reorganisation of the party in the city is expected to take place later this year.
Republican Sinn Féin welcomed the victory of Councillor Tomas O Curraoin in the Conamara area of County Galway after countless attempts to secure election to the county council and the Gaeltacht authority.
Party President Ruairi O Bradaigh said that it was a “tonic” that the group, which split from Sinn Féin in 1986, had “reclaimed” one of the two coounty council seats held by the organisation in the past.
“That outstanding success proves that Republican Sinn Féin candidates are electable - it can be done! - but that hard work on the ground is necessary over a prolonged period of time.
He said the work of “rebuilding the Republican Movement” in the aftermath of the “defections of recent years” would continue.
Elsewhere, Green Party chairman and unsuccessful European candidate Dan Boyle insisted that while his party were down, they were not out.
Green councillors were ousted in Carlow, Galway City, Meath, Monaghan and Kildare.
The party comfortably held just one seat, Brian Meeney in Clare, while Mark Deery was the only Green candidate to actually gain a seat in Louth.
“It is our nadir. The only way we can go is up. I am optimistic for the future,” he said.
However, defeated Green Party councillor, Niall O Brolchain suggested the party could pull out of power with Fianna Fail and form an ad-hoc government with Fine Gael and Labour, presumably with Sinn Féin support.
Mr O Brolchain said his understanding from talking to Green Party leader John Gormley was the party would hold a national conference to decide on the party’s future. But with the Green Party TDs keen to avoid a confrontation the party’s grassroots, it is not believed this special meeting will be imminent.
A motion of no confidence in the coalition government was defeated in the Dail on Thursday by 85 votes to 79, with Fianna Fail supported by the Green Party’s six TDs, as well as two independents, Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry.