That Portlaw-based Mary Butler topped the Waterford poll for Fianna Fáil came as a major surprise in last Saturday’s General Election count, with 6,000 of her 10,000 first preferences stemming from mid and west Waterford.
The elevation of David Cullinane has long been on the cards, and his vote-gaining power was one that Sinn Féin would dearly have wished to replicate nationally on what nonetheless still represented a positive election outcome for his party.
Given the national swing against the coalition, there was only room for one Fine Gael candidate to emerge victorious in Waterford, with the defeat of Minister of State Paudie Coffey proving, in our view, a major blow for the constituency.
However, perhaps his absence from the Dáil may only prove temporary (“I’m storing the posters just in case they are needed anytime soon,” he posted on his Facebook page) given that only 400 votes separated himself from the re-elected John Deasy.
John Halligan’s return to the Dáil was also well predicted in advance of last Friday’s count, with the Independent Alliance TD proving transfer friendly.
So where does this leave Waterford? Until a new government is formed, we are down two TDs on the government side of the house following the defeats of Paudie Coffey and Labour’s Ciara Conway.
In the event of Fine Gael leading a minority administration, with exterior, Tallaght Strategy-like support from Fianna Fáil, Waterford will have less clout in the next Dáil, and barring a change in FG’s leadership, little chance of ministerial representation.
Given the ‘Hung Dáil’ we currently find ourselves with, with no clear picture yet to emerge on who will form the next administration and how it will be achieved, the permanent government – the Civil Service – will run the country in the interim.
Until the big parties, or some other configuration gets their act together, we’ll have weak administration, and there’s no avoiding that.
Someone looking in from afar would readily suggest that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael should form a ‘grand alliance/coalition’, something John Deasy would be in favour of.
But as things stand, a repeat of the 1987-89 scenario, when last we had a minority government, would appear the initial and more favoured option. One suspects that
Michéal Martin would be keen to lead the opposition, so as not to cede any contrarian ground to Sinn Féin.
And if they were to support Fine Gael on certain matters (i.e. the Budget), they would retain the power to pull the plug on the government whenever they’d see fit do so. The snap election called by Charles Haughey did not provide Fianna Fáil with his anticipated majority, leading instead to a Faustian Pact with the Progressive Democrats, led by his old foe, Des O’Malley.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have a duty to try and work out some deal so that some form of stability is maintained, to ensure that Ireland remains investor friendly. A climate of chaos
is not in their interest. It’s not in the people’s interest.
But perhaps, as some FG insiders have suggested, perhaps there’s an onus on those they’ve indentified as protest-oriented TDs to see if they can come up with a new government.
While voters have clearly demonstrated their anger, one suspects no-one wants to see doubt and instability become the political norm, as it was during the turbulent 1981/82 period.
The people want stable government. And it’s up to our TDs to fulfil that wish.