Tag Archives: Dan Boyle

This Wednesday

Dan Boyle’s Xmas political non-fiction stocking filler, Making Up The Numbers; Smaller Independent Parties In Irish Politics is getting launched in Buswell’s Hotel, Dublin 2 at 7pm.

Meanwhile, following last week’s competition, Brother Barnabas (Catsiglierie), Penfold and Aaaa each win a copy for correctly numbering the political parties with the word ‘Clann’ that have had Oireachtas representation.

The number of parties was two: Clann na Talmhan and Clann na Poblachta.

History Press, Dan’s publishers, would also like make a copy available to Bisted for ‘special pleading’.

Thanks all.

Previously: Making Up The Numbers

From top: A box fresh copy of Making Up The Numbers by Dan Boyle ; Dan Boyle

Having made myself the unofficial historian for the Green Party in Ireland, I produced two books – ‘A Journey To Change’ an account of the party’s first twenty five years in existence; and ‘Without Power or Glory’ a personalised account of party’s period in government (2007/11).

When I undertook a Masters degree in Government (2013/14), I thought it might be interesting that my thesis should be to compare and contrast the experiences of the six smaller parties, that have been part of governments in Ireland. In the back of my mind I thought it might form the basis of a future book.

The thesis being twenty thousand words in length was far too short to be made into a book. I also began to think that focus of such a book, concentrating on only the six parties concerned, may have been too narrowly focussed. There was a wider story to be told about smaller parties and independents in Irish politics, and I wanted to tell it.

A number of books have been written on some of the smaller, now largely disappeared, parties. Books have also written been about individual independents and about the concept of independents. I wanted to write a comprehensive account of others in Irish politics. It may not be fully comprehensive but I am hoping that the gaps that are identified may become easier to fill in.

I believe it is a story worth telling. On average around 15% of the vote has been won by others. Over five hundred and fifty Dáil seats have been won by others, more than the number won by the Labour Party. These seats have often been vital in determining whether governments could be formed, or if a sitting government could continue in existence.

Those with large p​ersonalities and their willingness to be different are traits that are found more often among smaller parties and independents. There are many interesting personal stories among those others who have been elected in Ireland, some of those stories quite tragic. There can be no denying that others have brought large amounts of colour into a political system that has otherwise been quite moribund.

Others have been the source of much of the change that has occurred in Irish politics, even when the achievement of change has been a factor in hastening the end of many smaller parties.

Probably the biggest achievement of others in Irish politics has been to slowly move our politics from a politics of tribes to a politics of more coherent political beliefs, born from philosophies that bend less to the breeze of perceived public opinion. That change may not yet be complete, although we have moved considerably in that direction.

The vote for others may oscillate in future elections. It is likely though that it will remain a significant vote, and thus will continue to be necessary when new governments are being formed.

Our borrowed Westminster system of government now operates with a European style political diversity that helps underline the uniqueness of Irish politics. So much for the better.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

We have three copies of Making Up The Numbers to give away

To enter the give away, simply answer this question:

How many political parties with the word ‘Clann’ have had Oireachtas representation?

Lines MUST close at 1pm

Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics

From top: Frances Fitzgerald with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Fine Geal South Dublin County Councillor Vicki Casserly at the Fine Gael Election Convention for Dublin Mid West last Monday; Dan Boyle

An alternative interpretation of The Wizard of Oz questions whether the witch Glinda, was a ‘good’ witch, but was instead a more Machiavellian figure, who used the character Dorothy as a weapon in which to depose her rivals – the ‘Wicked’ Witch of the West and the Wizard of Oz himself.

I’m not saying the Frances Fitzgerald is any way a witch. During the time that we worked together in the Seanad, I found her to be quite a pleasant woman. She was in the midst of a political comeback then. She had lost her Dáil seat in Dublin South East (also the constituency of John Gormley of the Greens). I admired her capacity to fight back and seek to secure a presence in the Dáil once again.

That opportunity came in the 2011 general election when she became elected in Dublin Mid-West, whilst living in Dublin West. Enda Kenny looked kindly upon her and she became Minister for Children, a newly created Department, with a brief to bring about a children’s rights referendum to insert a new wording into the Constitution.

This was a ball that very nearly was dropped. The turnout for the referendum revealed an electorate that was less than enthused. Its validity was challenged (and rightly so) when Fitzgerald, as minister, blatantly set aside the McKenna judgement in spending public money in order to try to bring about the government’s desired result.

She was more fortunate, but also more deserving of praise, in her later handling of the same sex marriage referendum.

After the first fallout from the revelations surrounding the appalling treatment of Maurice McCabe, which brought about the departures of then Garda Commissioner, then Secretary General of the Department of Justice, and the Minister for Justice himself, Alan Shatter; Frances Fitzgerald found herself as the big political winner.

While she was lucky in her advancement, she was also given a clear agenda of what changes needed to be made within the Department of Justice. Forearmed with this knowledge she showed herself unable, but more likely, unwilling to make any changes.

By the end of her tenure at the Department of Justice she had gone quite native, not challenging the Garda Commissioner (who she had appointed) or any of her senior officials in the department.

Her failure in any way to challenge has made her a passive participant in the appalling behaviour that has continued to be exerted upon Maurice McCabe.

With the end of the Enda era, Fitzgerald’s political luck seemed to continue. Destined to be brushed aside by Leo’s new broom, Fitzgerald found herself not only still in the cabinet and free of the straitjacket of Justice, but also clinging to the prestige title of Tánáiste.

However luck carries anyone only so far. Silo thinking produces closed minds. Seeking to avoid appalling vistas tends to create even worse scenarios.

With her passivity and failure to inform or consult, Frances Fitzgerald deserved to be dismissed. Those who should have done so, in failing to do so, have shown up their own inadequacies.

The eventual falling on the sword may have postponed for now a still inevitable election, but that only means that the twitch is dead. Sadly it will return.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle



Looking for a political stocking filler?

Dan Boyle’s new book ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.

From top: Gerry Adams during his Presidential Address at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis last weekend; Dan Boyle

A Brave New World awaits Sinn Féin Mark Six, the political party which came out of the Hunger Strikes of 1981, inheriting the Sinn Féin franchise as the minority of the minority of the minority of those who had previously laid claim to that title.

Its Moses like leader, the benighted Gerry Adams, having almost led his people to the Promised Land (and having done so five years more quickly than his biblical predecessor), is about to step aside and allow someone else lead his people into Israel (sorry Stormont, sorry government in Dublin).

Making fun of the Dear Leader will probably reawaken the trolls in their hundreds. Let me seek to correct myself. Gerry Adams has been one of the most significant figures of modern Irish politics. He deserves respect and admiration for the way he has led his movement from a fruitless, violent path, towards democratic respectability.

His party is now firmly ensconced as the third force in Ireland. Its mathematical strength may yet bring about a historic realignment in Irish politics.

And yet. The achievement has not been solely his. The Peace Process could never have happened, if it weren’t for John Hume. Without him the initiative would not have gotten off the ground. His reward, in a life now lived in shadows, has been to be minimised and marginalised, especially by the Republican movement.

The role played by Martin McGuinness was equally as important in helping to put, and keep Gerry Adams where he was.

The initiation of the Peace Process with Hume, and the directing and managing of the Republican movement with McGuinness, have been Gerry Adams’ greatest achievements. Achievements for which he should be continually acknowledged.

It is his subsequent role as a political leader that deserves a critique. After the Good Friday Agreement the political growth of Sinn Féin was slow and patchy.

At the 2007 general election the party actually lost a seat. It took the arrival of the International Monetary Fund to the country,and the subsequent election of Pearse Doherty in the Donegal South West by election, for the party to begin its upward trend in support.

Much new support was easily gained through a slavish addiction to the politics of No. Whenever the party nudged towards being more responsible, it found itself going backwards, such as when the Anti Austerity Alliance beat Sinn Féin to the punch over the issue of water charges during the Dublin South West by-election in 2014.

Sinn Féin has been thought to have a glass ceiling on its potential support, as long as Gerry Adams remained its leader. A bright new future awaited the party, as and when Gerry decided it would be time to move on.

This analysis may have been oversold. There are many negatives that attach to Sinn Féin, that exist regardless of who its leader is. A further bee in the bonnet is that Adams may have made this change too late.

This indicates that any bounce the party may expect may not as deep or as long lasting as it hopes for. No Big Bang is likely.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle



Looking for a political stocking filler?

Dan Boyle’s new book ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ is being published by the History Press on November 27.