Derek Mooney: What Now?


From top: Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald (centre) celebrates her party’s results  at the Generel Election 2020 count centre in the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4; Derek Mooney

These comments are thrown together very late at night after over 16 hours of intense election count watching. They should, therefore, be taken more as just initial ramblings, than as a thoughtful analysis.

So here are the key things that stand out to me from the result.

First, the are two election winners. One is Sinn Féin – who saw its vote increase by 11% and second is the Green party which has seen its vote increase by 5%.

Between them they have gained a 15% swing, roughly equivalent to three quarters of Fine Gael’s total vote.

On the other side there are several losers, including Ruth Coppinger, Lisa Chambers, Shane Ross, Katherine Zappone. All of these hard working and courteous representatives are looking at seeing their political careers end.

The two biggest losers however, in reverse order were Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

As both have lost, the idea that the two together have a mandate to form a grand coalition is a nonsense. So let’s get that off the list.

While Fianna Fáil did, as I discussed last week and the week before, offer modest and cautious change, the voters rejected that – in favour of the more radical option.

The harsh reality of yesterday’s result is that Fianna Fáil has just secured it’s second worse electoral result ever.

That is not the type of result from which you pivot into office and carry on as if the voters have not spoken. That is true whether the potential coalition partner is Fine Gael or Sinn Féin. .

While Sinn Féin did not receive an seismic overwhelming vote and is still essentially in a three way tie with the two defeated parties, it still had the momentum on the day and is the direction in which the biggest chunk of voters moved.

To simply acknowledge this reality. To respect the will of those people who moved to back Sinn Féin is not to suddenly become an advocate of having a coalition with Sinn Féin.

I can acknowledge SF’s mandate without have to embrace it or swear an oath to implement it.

The suggestion that Fianna Fáil now has an obligation endorse that mandate is to ignore what its leader and leadership have told it’s reduced segment of voters over the past weeks, months and years.

This is the point that Jim O’Callaghan, Darragh O’Brien Michael McGrath and others made strongly yesterday.

Not only is there neither the appetite nor the demand for such an arrangement, it would fly in the face of what Fianna Fáil has been promising its own cohort of 22.5%.

Like it or not Fianna Fáil has a contract/obligation not to turn its back on those who only voted for it 24 hours early. They devised to back Fianna Fáil with the clear understanding that Fianna Fáil would not put that Sinn Fein into office.

Not that Sinn Féin feels that it needs to wait for Fianna Fáil to facilitate it. Sinn Féin fate lays within Sinn Féiner’s own hands.

In last week’s column I argued that there were four possible options/permutations. They are now down to three. Those three are:

Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael grand coalition. Not only is this a non runner, in terms of mandates, if may well be that the two parties will not have the seats to deliver this when all the counts are concluded, or when it comes to selecting a Ceann Comhairle.

Option two is the Sinn Féin/Fianna Fáil coalition. Once again, I explained last week why this was not a runner, but the arguments against this became stronger when the size of the respective l mandates were confirmed in the counts.

The third option is another election. This does not come into play for a few weeks yet.

First the strengths and mettle of all three parties will be tested in a series of votes when the Dáil reconvenes in about 10 days.

Each of the parties nominees for Taoiseach – and right now I am careful to say parties nominees, not party leaders, will be voted on in turns.

There will be a full vote on each candidate where the number of TDs voting and against each nominee is recorded.

Right now it is virtual racing certainty that all three will be rejected, though by varying margins.

It is most assuredly not beyond the rounds of possibility that Mary Lou McDonald might, over the next few days, be able to convince other like-minded left-wing parties to support her nomination thereby leaving her as the most supported of the three defeated potential Taoisigh.

We will probably have a few rounds of these votes are a period of weeks to see who blinks, yields or changes position.

But, at some point, there will have to be an endpoint set if all these rounds of votes end in a perpetual stalemate where no candidate can secure more votes in favour than against – either by voting for or abstaining.

It is hard to see how this third option – the second election – will not become increasingly attractive to Sinn Féin over the weeks, especially if it is seem to exhaust all its other options, on their own terms.

If they play it right, Sinn Féin would not be seen as pulling down the shutters. Instead it would have a chance to correct the strategic candidate election errors it made and run sufficient candidates to give it another 10 or 12 seats.

As I said last week, let us be clear that each of these three surviving options are particularly attractive, in various degrees, to Sinn Féin.

Right now I think another election is the most likely outcome. It is not my preferred option, very far from it, but the longer the impasse continues with no significant movement from the parties, then it’s likelihood continues.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010.  His column appears here every Monday.Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

33 thoughts on “Derek Mooney: What Now?

  1. class wario

    It will be quite funny seeing the same people who feigned outrage at SF having a mandate to not take their seats in Westminster suddenly say FF/FG were voted for on the basis of their steadfast refusal to not prop up Sinn Fein

  2. Gearóid

    He had me at votegate’s Lisa Chambers being hard working.

    He’s right though, she was doing the work of two people in that Dáil chamber, fair play to her!

  3. Spaghetti Hoop

    Another election is not ‘increasingly attractive’ to the Shinners – they don’t have any more candidates to run.

    1. dav

      I’m sure they would be able to find some boys and girls to pose for an election poster. what makes you think they don’t have enough?

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        I asked a couple of long-time party members that I know, if they regretted not running more candidates (question was initially re Dub South Central but extended nationwide) – they didn’t have any more was the response.

        1. Mick

          They definitely have more candidates in plenty of places. Chris MacManus stepped back a few weeks ago in Sligo-Leitrim(-North Roscommon-South Donegal to give it the full title), but he would quite possibly have gotten elected too given the extent of Martin Kenny’s surplus.

    2. Rob_G

      They can maybe rustle up a few more from any of the remaining councillors who haven’t left over bullying allegations…

      1. Rob_G

        Hindsight 20:20, and all that. I’m sure no-one is more surprised than them at how well they did, they really didn’t do especially well in the locals.

    3. italia'90

      Ya sure about that?
      The Ard ComhairIe are currentIy sitting in session in a 4*hoteI in a Ieafy bIue DubIin suburb
      The majority have been there since earIy Iast week
      Now they are summoning the party machine to DubIin to the sister hoteI which is even more Grand than where the AC are based ;)

    4. rotide

      A woman who got 280 votes in the council election put up 20 posters and for 10.000 first preferences

      Another woman went on holidays during the election and only got back yesterday and still got elected

      They could have run a shaved monkey and still hoovered up the protest votes. might not be so easy next time once the balaclava slips (and it’s already started in Waterford)

  4. Paulus

    In the event of a second election; SF should appeal to the(ir) category of voter who seldom votes because… “Sure they’re all the same”.
    Use this election as an example of what can be achieved when they make the effort.
    Then get them out in force to really stick it to The Man next time – with a few more SF candidates on the ticket of course.

    1. Rob_G

      I actually hope SF do form a government. The electorate might then see that it’s easy to promise the sun, moon, and stars while in opposition, but a different story trying to actually govern on this basis.

      1. ReproBertie

        There’s a feeling in FF that they should let SF get on with it and actually sit in opposition, rather than the role they played in the last Dáil.

  5. Truth in the News

    The reality is that FF and FG + the Greens make up the numbers, haven’t FF
    kept Fine Gael in power with 4 years so whats the problem of now reciprocating
    in a formal coalition, while FF and FG stated policy was that they would not have SF
    in Government, they never said that would not participate in a joint coalition with
    each other, all they have do is get rid of Martin and Varadkar

  6. fakelikes

    Another confidence and Supply agreement would be a disaster for FF. The past 4 years have shown the electorate that FF/FG are virtually the same. FF/FG campaigns where essentially offering the same.

    The allure of power will be to great for FF. They will form a gov with Sinn Fein and the greens. They wont be able to resist. This means a perfect storm of house building.

    Labour are all but finished. A party of fat cat champagne soicalist all in their 60’s. Its sad that the partty of Connolly has come to this sad end.

  7. Scundered

    Time to get the popcorn out and watch SF try to shake their magic money trees, this will be hilarious.

    1. millie vanilly strikes again

      Oh I’m sure FF and FG have never, ever made an election promise they didn’t keep. No sir. No legacy of failure to deliver from those two parties.

      Just while we’re slinging pointless nonsense around I thought I’d add to it.

    2. RidersOnThe Storm

      While they can’t help showing their true colours:

      “They will never break us. They will never break Sinn Féin.

      “Up the Republic, Up the Ra and Tiocfaidh ár Lá,” he shouted.

      – David Cullinane

    3. GiggidyGoo

      Almost as good as Noonan and his fiscal space? And who was it who put him right on those calculations?

    4. Stan

      And if they succeed in combining a massive tranche of public investment in housing, health and education AND balancing the books, as FF did in the ’30s, what will you say then?

      1. Rob_G

        I will personally start up a campaign to nominate Pearse Doherty for the Nobel prize in economics, and give Giggidy a five knuckle shuffle

        edit: very gracious editing while leaving the original meaning intact – kudos, Bodge

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