Tag Archives: shane heneghan

From top: German Defence minister Ursula von der Leyden (left) with Joan Burton at an EU summit in Dublin Castle in 2013; Shane Heneghan

The last European summit in Brussels had a solution. A neat, gender balanced package was cooked up to occupy four of the main top jobs in the European Union.

The initial English language media reporting of this spoke as if the appointments- particularly that of the proposed new head of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen- are a done deal. They are not.

It’s worth looking at the treaty in regard to the appointing of a new head of the commission. Article 17.7 of the Lisbon Treaty states-

“Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members.”

This text has been interpreted generously by the Parliament to mean that the Council (the EU heads of government meeting in Brussels) should nominate one of the main groups “spitzenkandidaten” or lead candidates from the European election campaign.

A request that is very easily circumvented as European elections, by their very definition, cannot be conclusive.

But in nominating Von Der Leyen, the current German defence minister,- a name that has never been mentioned with regard to one of the main jobs in Brussels they have shown a certain level of contempt for the notion that the European Elections should perhaps influence the future direction of Europe.

If successful, Von Der Leyen would be the first Commission President not to have served as a Prime Minister of a member state since the 1980s and would arguably be one of the lowest ranking people ever to get this job.

She is widely regarded as being one of the weaker ministers (despite now being Merkel’s longest serving minister) in the current Berlin government – owing her success more to loyalty to Frau Merkel than ability and her appointment (just like that of Spanish Foreign Minister Borrell) to the Commission, opens up an extra slot for any upcoming reshuffles.

But the wheels are coming off the wagon.

Ms Von Der Leyen was in Brussels recently for hearings with the various different political groupings to get their support in Parliament. Both the Greens and the far-left groups have firmly said they will not be supporting her.

For the first time ever, the centre-right and centre-left groups do not have an overall majority by themselves in the European Parliament.

In principle, this deal was cooked up by representatives of these two groups plus the new liberal centrist group “Renew Europe” formed by President Macron and together, in theory, these groups should get her over the line.

However, it should be noted that the European Parliament does not have nearly as tight a whipping system as national parliaments.

The Socialist group is believed to be split along national lines, with even the German SPD having their doubts.

Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kalli is thought to have said that von der Leyen was tougher than former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble during the Greek economic crisis.

Even in von der Leyen’s own centre-right grouping there are those taken aback that their spitzenkandidat, in the form of the hapless Bavarian, Manfred Weber, is being overlooked.

To be elected, Ms von der Leyen needs an absolute majority- that’s the support of 376 MEPs. Jean Claude Juncker got 440 in his equivalent vote in 2014 and despite his nomination being considerably less controversial or unpredictable than this one, this number still fell somewhat short of what he was expected to get.

One scenario floating around Brussels is that von der Leyen may get less than 400 votes and preside over a handicapped Commission.

While the Commission remains the sole body that can initiate law at EU level, the vast majority of them can be both amended and rejected by Parliament and many in this very divided chamber may revel in the ability to throw a spanner in the works over the next five years.

The debate on Ms von der Leyen’s nomination starts today at 5pm Irish time in the European Parliament. Followed by a vote – by secret ballot.

Should the unthinkable happen and Von Der Leyen fail to be approved this will require someone else to be nominated at yet another summit.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based writer and academic. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pic: Getty


From top: Young Fine Gael members campaign for directly elected mayors at a Town Hall event in Cork earlier this month; Shane Heneghan

It’s being billed as a democratic revolution. A handing over of power to the people and the strengthening of local democracy. A quick look at the proposals leaves us with more questions than answers.

The main thrust of the idea is too take power away from local Chief executives in areas such as planning and traffic management and give it to a directly elected mayor.

Cork, Waterford and Limerick already have functioning local authorities that could take this power.

Transferring this power to these assemblies of many directly elected representatives is surely more democratic than transferring it to just one?

The other argument for the proposal is that the directly elected individual would be a “Mr or Mrs Cork, (or Limerick or Waterford)” and be an ambassador for the area on both a national and international stage.

There is no reason to believe that this cosmetic function could not be filled by the existing mayor, already elected by the councils in the respective area. The terms these office holders have is now limited to a year.

We can easily increase their visibility by increasing that term to either two and a half years or five years. Problem solved. No need to reinvent the wheel.

These are the standard, well rehearsed arguments against the directly elected model. What’s peculiarly Irish about these proposals is the asymmetric nature of the plebiscites.

Above all, it would be remiss of me as a proud Tribesman not to ask why Waterford city and county is to be offered a directly elected mayor- but Galway isn’t?

Parochialism aside, the question as to why Urban Ireland is being offered reform and rural Ireland is not must be asked. If they become law, voters in these areas will have one more office holder accountable to them than people living outside them.

Can this be viewed as another snub to the people of rural Ireland? Perhaps its a simple oversight – but I would argue the government has questions to answer as to how the rest of the country will be represented post-plebiscite.

The asymmetric nature of this situation could become apparent quicker than we think. Will Cork hoover up resources at the expense of Galway, Donegal and Mayo as a weak Dublin government lives in fear of a media tantrum from Mayor Roy Keane?

Indeed, speaking of Dublin, isn’t it strange that the one urban agglomeration on the Island that might best use a directly elected mayor if that were useful is being denied it this time?

The greater Dublin area is to be consulted via a citzen’s assembly before it is decided what lies in store for the future of local governance there. Perhaps this is the best example so far of voters being treated differently based on geography.

Local government in Ireland is some of the weakest in Western Europe. It’s laudable to seek to reform it- but not on the back of an envelope. There is already a solid directly elected structure there – we should be seeking to beef up its powers and increase it’s visibility.

Since coming to office in 2011, Fine Gael has been a bit trigger happy with referendums and for the most part this has led to long overdue reforms but these plebiscites strike me as amateurish at best and a hollow distraction at worst.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based writer and academic. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Yesterday: Derek Mooney: Mayor Culpa

Michael Taft: Local Election Vacuum

From top: This week’s Europvision semi final running order. The competition begins tomorrow in Tel Aviv, Israel;  Shane Heneghan

The contest that is known for getting far too political will be especially political this year after the victory of one of the least commercially successful Eurovision winners of the past few years from Netta Barzilai of Israel.

When it became apparent that Israel would host this year, the calls to boycott Eurovision were instant. Sinn Féin, Sweden’s left Party and the Australian Greens were all vocal.

A petition in Iceland very quickly gained 23,000 signatures- equivalent to 5% of the population.

The BDS movement hopes people and countries alike will skip this years shin dig and are busy setting up alternative events across the continent.

This is not the first time Israel has hosted the event and not the first time there have been calls for a boycott.

Indeed, Yugoslavia and Turkey refused to send representatives to Jerusalem in 1979 in the politically charged atmosphere just a few years after the Yom Kippur war.

This time around, no nation is boycotting for political reasons. Though Ukraine is staying at home- for reason of internal not external politics.

Local media reports indicate that the numbers travelling to this years contest are way down compared to previous years- though this may have as much to do with geography and the high cost of Tel Aviv as much as politics.

Recently, a group of international celebrities ranging from Marina Abramovic to Stephen Fry signed a letter slamming the boycott and asking for “all our friends and colleagues around the world to express their support for an exciting and successful Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv”.

Their endorsement is crowned by Israeli TV’s booking of Madonna for the interval act. The material girl in the Michael Flatley slot is a Kabbalist and has always been strong advocate for Israel.

Despite the aforementioned petition, Iceland will still participate next week with one of this year’s more eye catching acts.

The BDSM clad metal band Hatari believe “we can bring this critical conversation or make awareness of the situation here with our message and with our agenda-setting powers and hopefully we will make awareness to the world through Eurovision.”

Their song – “Hatrið mun sigra” loosely translates to Hatred will prevail. Take from that what you will.

But perhaps the participant to watch is Italy’s Mahmoud. The half-Egyptian has already caused a stir in Salvini‘s Italy with his song Soldi when it won the San Remo festival. It has since broken to the top of the charts and is among the favourites to win the whole thing.

The song has lyrics in Arabic and whilst not political a victory for this song would not be seen as without significance.

For clarity, Palestine is currently ineligible to take part in Eurovision as their broadcaster lacks EBU membership.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based writer and academic. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

From top: Forza Italia’s Silvio Berlusconi, and Lega’s’s Matteo Salvini at a press conference last Thursday; Shane Henegahn

With most governments since the second world war lasting scarcely more than a year, Italy can be described as the Mexican soap opera of European democracies.

The election today marks the debut of a new electoral system in which around 37% of seats will be allocated under a British style first past the post system, the remainder being allocated under a proportional system.

Despite this, for a number of reasons, it looks as though stability may remain illusive. For starters, the country is unique in that a government must maintain a majority in both houses of Parliament.

This election presents the standard plethora of parties loosely arranged into blocks that may or may not be able to form a government.

The outgoing left-wing government seems unlikely to be re-elected despite having provided relative stability and Prime Minister Paolo Gentoloni’s relative popularity.

The single party that is likely to come out with the largest amount of support will, according to polls, almost certainly be Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement), founded by comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009. Despite often being characterised as populist, the party has also embraced environmentalism amongst other issues.

The party began life with a eurosceptic slant but has since abandoned plans for a referendum on the euro and now says the “European Union is the Five Star Movement’s home” .

Their leader, 31 year old Luigi Di Maio, is described as a pragmatist- despite this the party rules out the idea of going into coalition or joining or forming an electoral block.

Of course, it just wouldn’t be an Italian election without a contribution from the bauld Silvio Berlusconi and despite being barred from holding office for six years in 2013, the former Prime Minister is dominating the campaign.

His centre right block has designated incumbent European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani to be the candidate for premier- presumably until Silvio can take office again next year.

There has been at least as much focus on government formation as there has been on actual policy during this campaign- perhaps lamentable in a country with the second highest level of public debt in the Eurozone.

The 5 star movements refusal to consider a coalition has led to speculation of a grand coalition between the left and right wing blocks. As this is Italy, this would be more like a coalition of coalitions and this will be far from straight forward.

It’s quiet likely, for instance that the right wing, euroscpetic “Lega” party will not wish to serve with the left wing block’s “More Europe” faction. Expect to see a few of the more extreme parties on either side pass up the opportunity for power in this scenario.

A less likely outcome is that the 5 star movement may be convinced to consider a confidence and supply agreement to get either of the two established blocks over the line.

Such a decision would require a vote of the full membership of the movement and how appealing their 135,000 partisans consider the idea of becoming Fianna Fail a la carbonara is unclear.

Given Italy’s aforementioned electoral history, the clearest prediction one can make is another election following this one before too long.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pic: Getty

Update: Voters deliver hung parliament in Italian election (RTÉ)

From top: German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Shane Heneghan

Despite being in a position of unprecedented weakness, reports of Angela Merkel’s political demise are greatly exaggerated.

Shane Heneghan writes:

As noted previously, government negotiations in Germany take time. The numbers thrown up by September’s election were bound to exacerbate this especially when we consider that the three groupings in question had never worked together at the federal level before.

The Liberal Free Democratic Party FDP abandoning negotiations removes what had been seen as the only viable option from the table but it does not mean government formation impossible.

A deal with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), where this party either extracts a high price from ‘Mutti’ for their help in bailing her out, or perhaps where the party supports a minority Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU(/Green coalition from outside government (an Irish solution to a German problem), would seem like her next best option. A similar deal might also be possible with the FDP once their leadership has had a chance to cool off.

It should be noted that Germany has never had a minority government in the post war period and the Chancellor herself is on record as saying she would prefer fresh elections to such a messy arrangement.

With this in mind, however, she will also be aware that it is very hard for fresh elections to be called in Germany without the consent of the sitting Chancellor and the President- so it might not be as unstable an option as we think.

It is remarkable, and perhaps also more evidence of how much Germany values stability that no major contender within the CDU (or CSU) seems to have yet made indications that they wish to challenge her for the leadership and even if the current impasse leads to fresh elections in the new year, for the moment at least, it’s almost impossible to see her party not prevailing in one form or another.

I think for the short- to medium-term she is irreplaceable,” said Jürgen Hardt a leading CDU member of the Bundestag. There seems to be a general realisation of this even within Germany where despite the uncertainty people remain calm and markets remain steady- the Frankfurt stock exchange even rose slightly yesterday.

This is in stark contrast to her embattled counterpart in the UK were chatter of Theresa May leaving downing street has been bubbling under the surface since the exit poll was released at the end of the last election.

Speaking of the UK, perhaps even more unfounded is the notion that Merkel’s difficulties are an opportunity for an embattled Theresa May to “divide and conquer” in Brexit negotiations.

It is notable that with the exception of the Alternative For Germany (AfD), the entire political spectrum in Germany has a similar attitude to the talks and will be keen for the country to continue its current line albeit at slower pace due to domestic difficulties.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pic: Getty

Previously: Stability Über Alles



From top: Emmanuel Macron Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen; Shene Heneghan

With four candidates within 3% of one another in the polls, France’s presidential election remains volatile. The two most dramatic statistics frequently ignored in the past few weeks, however, are the high level of undecided voters (as much as one third) and those who say they won’t vote (about 28% in a country where 80% turnouts are the norm).

All this, together with the tragic shooting of a policeman in central Paris just days before voting make this easily the toughest French presidential election to call in the history of the 5th republic.

A year ago, many pundits would have said the election of Marine Le Pen as president was considerably more likely than that of Donald Trump or a vote for Brexit and she has done her best to make the most of these two events.

Her campaign has been scandal-ridden from the off with allegations of misappropriation of funds from the European Parliament to loan agreements with those close to the Kremlin in Russia. Despite all this, and despite her party’s poor record in other recent elections (the FN was expected to make breakthroughs in the most recent regional elections but failed) she is still the woman to beat.

If she wins, France’s place in the euro and the EU itself are both very much up for discussion and without France, the continued existence of both is unlikely.

Her main rival began this campaign as an outsider, but as a man who fell in love with, then subsequently married his secondary school French teacher, Emmanuel Macron is used to overcoming the odds.

Apart from a brief stint as economy minister under President Hollande he has no government experience. He left government to set up his own centrist, grassroots, staunchly pro-EU political movement, “En Marche” which has since gone from strength to strength. He now has a strong chance of meeting it through to the 2nd round.

Another candidate firing up his party base is veteran left winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon- who is perhaps best described as a French Bernie Sanders. Like Sanders, he has been drawing big numbers to rallies recently – even to ones where he appears by hologram. Though turnout with the far left is always an issue and most polls have him a few points behind he cannot be ruled out from getting through on Sunday.

The early favourite for this contest was the centre-right’s Francois Fillon who saw poll numbers tumble when it emerged he may have been paying his wife around half a million euro a year to do more or less nothing.

Despite this fall from grace, he is still hovering around 20% in polls, doing very well among the over 60s and Catholics (two groups with consistently high turnout) and benefits from a well-resourced campaign. Staunchly opposing adoption rights for same sex couples and in favour of limiting immigration and stronger relations with Russia, Fillon can be described as being on the right of his own party.

One of the main advantages Fillon would have over his rivals if he were elected is the ability to form a Parliamentary majority after the election. Officially speaking at least, none of the other three can count on more than a handful of MPs in the Assemblee Nationale.

The legislative elections that happen within a few weeks of the second round of the presidential election are bound to give the incumbent a boost but it would be highly unlikely that any of these three movements came close to an outright majority. Fillon himself has his rivals in his own party and may not always get his own way in Parliament.

We can say therefore that the next President of France is likely to be a weak figure whose tenure may change the relationship between Parliament and Presidency for the foreseeable future.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Update: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen estimated to be through to second round (Guardian)


From top: European leaders assemble yesterday in Rome, Italy; Shane Heneghan

Cheap phone calls on holiday are of cold comfort to the jobless youth in the South.

Europe needs more.

Shane Heneghan writes:

This weekend EU leaders (what’s left of them) gathered in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome which began the process of European integration as we know it.

In an atmosphere of much mutual backslapping, the story of the European Union was celebrated and a brief declaration on the future of Europe was signed.

Yes, this anniversary comes at a time when the second biggest donor in the club is about to leave, but the declaration signed at Rome tries to make this look as much as possible as an opportunity as well as a difficulty.

The declaration and the celebration itself were, of course, peppered liberally with certain myths. The underlying narrative that European integration has been plain sailing since the late 50s is the easiest one to debunk.

If you go back into the newspaper archives of the 50th, 40th, and 30th anniversaries you will find the Union in various different midlife crises each time. In 2007, for example, the club was desperately trying to salvage something from the failed constitution project- which eventually became the Lisbon treaty.

Even the signing of the Treaty itself was done in a general atmosphere of malaise in the wake of the French Parliament rejecting the proposed European Defence Union a few years previously.

Perhaps this should serve as a warning to those so eager to see the EU gain a defence policy as a reaction to the Trump White House.

The declaration contains an admission that some states may wish to move forward at varying different speeds of integration – like this is something new – that this was even written down is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has had half an eye on what has been going on in the past 60 years.

We have a multispeed Europe perhaps since day one – or at the very least since the signing of the Schengen agreement on free movement in the 1980s.

But of course, the most interesting thing about informal declarations like this is what is not mentioned.

Earlier this week, Greenpeace and other environmental actors lamented the fact that the text has no mention of climate change. This is missing an open goal. Even eurosceptics can sometimes be convinced that environmental issues like this need to be tackled at an international level.

Here Europe has a chance to make itself more cohesive and also, ya know, save the world. As a former Finnish Prime Minister once put it, the EU is like a shark- it must keep moving or it will sink. It needs a big idea.

Well meaning defenders of the project point to successes such as the abolition of roaming charges as justification. Cheap phone calls on holiday are of cold comfort to the jobless youth in the South.

Europe has a single currency now – it’s in our pockets. This is the big leagues. It’s insulting to the citizens to serve up low level issues like this and present it as progress.

We need a common treasury and we should look at increasing the amount of money the EU spends on infrastructure.

The structural funds are arguably one of the best examples of well managed public spending you are likely to find. If this was to be scaled up, even modestly, could have a very strong effect economically.

Speaking as an unrepentant Federalist (I knew I’d work the f bomb into this somehow) I’m so tired of PR exercises like what we saw in Rome. We need more.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan



From top: Dutch political party leaders Geert Wilders (PVV), Emile Roemer (SP), Mark Rutte (VVD), Lodewijk Asscher (PvdA), Alexander Pechtold (D66) and Sybrand van Haersma Buma (CDA) at the offices of De Telegraaf newspaper earlier this month: Shane Heneghan

The Netherlands heads to the polls on Wednesday with 2017’s first test of the wave of populism that dominated 2016.

Shane Heneghan writes:

So far, the main international headlines concerning the Dutch general Election deal with the potential electoral comeback of the far-right wing PVV under the leadership of their founder, Geert Wilders.

Staunchly pro-Israel, and pro-US (particularly under its new management), strongly anti-immigrant and anti-elitist, Wilders’ brand of populism has many echoes of the rise of UKIP, the Front National and Donald Trump.

Wilders is seldom vague in his rhetoric- frequently branding whole groups of emigrants as “Moroccan scum” and referring to Islam as the “ideology of a retarded culture”.

It should be remembered, however, that no opinion poll taken this year has seen his party on more than 23% of the vote and that the more recent polls see them as unlikely to be the largest party.

This brings us to the real story in Dutch politics in recent years.

There has been a kind of Balkanisation in the wake of the decline of both the centre-right VVD and the centre-left Pvda which has led to a mushrooming in small and single issue parties that opinion polls indicate may make forming a government after the election supremely tedious.

The political pallet is vast.

The country now has the world’s only Animal rights party with representation at the national level, a party dedicated to the issues affecting those over 50, a pro migrants party and a reformed evangelical Christian party all of which currently have representation in Parliament and all of which are expected to increase that representation at this election.

Worth watching is the rise of the radical liberal party, D66. A smaller party, with several stints in government under its belt over the past 40 years, they can claim credit for some of the more liberal reforms post war Holland is famous for including euthanasia, drug decriminalisation and same sex marriage.

The party is currently expected to take as many as 20 seats and a swing between now and polling day coupled with their centrist position economically could theoretically leave their leader as the first ever D66 prime minister.

Perhaps more radical if much less likely would be the prospect of the Dutch electing the world’s first Green Prime Minister in the form of Jesse Klaver, a 30 year old family man with Indonesian and Moroccan heritage who is expected to bring his party from four seats to the low 20s.

Given that the next government may involve up to five parties, the process of government formation is in itself is worth examining.

The Dutch monarch appoints an informateur, who – and this could prove to be crucial – may be an MP or senator from any party, who then begins negotiations between potential partners while keeping the King informed in a process that has long been criticised for its secrecy. As this is the 1st election since his mother’s abdication in 2013, it will be interesting to watch how King Willem-Alexander approaches this process.

This election is probably the most unpredictable I have come across in sometime and I include everything 2016 has put us through when I say that. One poll over the weekend suggested that there may be as little as 6% between the top six parties.

Given how badly I performed on these pages when examining the Irish election and the Brexit vote last year I won’t dare make a prediction. But I do think the result may very well set the tone for elections for the rest of 2017 with consequence for France and to a lesser extent Germany.

Get the popcorn.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Top pic: Getty


They called it wrong again.

‘sheet poll number cruncher Shane Heneghan writes

Firstly, in the interests of full disclosure let me just say that I was spectacularly wrong about this. I predicted a remain vote of about 52%. The voters gave me the exact opposite result.

When the dust settles, the fact that this was the second major failure in a row of the British polling industry, a country where the polls are traditionally remarkably reliable, should be dealt with but at the moment that is way down our list of considerations.

Let’s just take a step back for a minute and look at what happened.

This situation we are in now is unprecedented and no one can seriously tell you what will happen next. Anyone who says they can is a liar and probably has a very specific agenda.

But for the sake of argument ‘ll go through some of the hypothetical models of Britain’s future that have been going through my head in the past while:

The Norwegian-Icelandic Model
This involves joining the European Economic Area and would leave the UK in a close economic relationship with the EU while giving them an emergency break on freedom of movement and removing them from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The UK would also lose it’s right to appoint a commissioner, elect MEPs and send ministers to the Council of the European Union and still have to pay handsomely into the EU budget while receiving little or no benefit.

The Swiss Model
Much the same as the above only in this case the relationship would be governed by a series of bi-lateral treaties. I think this is the most likely outcome as it gives the UK much more flexibility.

(It is important to note that the above two options involve membership of the Schengen passport free zone which I am assuming Britain will continue to avoid like the plague.)

The Singapore model
In short, this involves the UK being treated as if it were a third country completely detached from Europe. It implies that tariffs and customs inspections would again applied to goods traded between the rest of Europe and the UK. This is by far the most radical option and in many ways the least likely given the close nature of the vote.

There are a few other things to keep in mind in the next few days.

Corbyn has got to go
A man who leads his party in a referendum and fails to convince great swathes of his electoral base of his position will probably have to do the honourable thing sooner or later. A leadership election will almost certainly be triggered by the Parliamentary Labour party in the next few days. The shadow cabinet is already in disarray and the departure of Hilary Benn does not help.

2) This vote is not binding.
The British Parliament is literally the beginning and the end of UK democracy. Referendums have no legal status and if the House of Commons votes to ignore this referendum in the morning then it’s dead in the water. Of course, even if this is entirely legally plausible, it is more or less politically impossible and would probably lead to UKIP forming an armed militia within about six months.

A slightly more likely prospect would be if a new moderate Labour party leader won an election before the exit negotiations concluded on a platform of maintaining full membership. That may sound unlikely but there is a solid 48% voters that feel hard done by and a sliver of the winning side with buyers remorse who may back them and when you factor in that the Conservative party is almost certainly going to lurch towards the right after Cameron leaves them it just might make this scenario a runner.

3) A northern Irish border poll really is a non starter.
We have already seen how the Democratic Unionist Party have moved heaven and earth to stop gay marriage being introduced to Northern Ireland- imagine the effort they would mount to stop a vote on Irish unity. Sinn Féin can hardly be blamed for raising the idea- what else are they for? But the relative silence of the SDLP is also telling. This issue simply is not on the table at the moment despite the North’s difference of opinion with mainland Britain. Things may change if Scotland votes for independence.

4) Britain may drift ideologically into the Atlantic
Future right wing governments in Britain may not be bound by EU social legislation and may slash “red tape” such as maternity leave, paid holidays, anti discrimination rules and other such nonsense dreamed up by water cooler dictators in Brussels. In terms of foreign policy in general they will be even more dependant on the so called “special relationship” with the Americans- how reciprocal that relationship is anyone’s guess.

Finally, I don’t like historical hypotheticals but I can’t help but speculate that John Major should have held a referendum on the Maastricht treaty in 1991.

Presumably, he could have won and used it to silence “the bastards” in his party while nipping the rising tide of Euroscepticism in the bud. This would have probably solidified his premiership more so than his eventual “Back me or sack me” leadership contest.

He didn’t and UKIP was founded in 1994.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter

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From top: A detail from post election Red C poll; From left: Fine Gael’s Leo Varadakar, Paschal Donohoe and Simon Coveney at Trinity College Dublin for talks with Fianna Fáil yesterday

What do recent polls –  B&A, for the Sunday Times last weekend and Red C, for the Sunday Business Post after the election-  tell us about the formation of a new government and/or the chances of new General Election?

Shane Heneghan writes:

The grand coalition I predicted would form from the result we got has so far become little more than a not-so grand game of constitutional chicken; but what effect do opinion polls have on the ongoing developments?

Logically, a rise in a level of support for a particular party at this stage would potentially increase the will within that party to seek a second election- but given the increasing weariness of politics from the population in general and the cost of two national campaigns within six months- this is only half true at best.

However, there will be some swollen chests within Fianna Fail after the weekend’s poll from Behaviour and Attitudes had them leading Fine Gael for the first time in eight years. The ghost of PJ Mara is surely goading them to push for “showtime” once again.

Of course, if it has any effect it probably won’t lead to a second election in and off itself but it is likely to make a Fine Gael minority less likely.

By contrast however, a RedC post election poll seems to show voters’ sympathies with Fine Gael and their predicament with them gaining a few points on their election débâcle.

Old notions around post election momentum seem to hold solid for the smaller parties with the Greens firm at 3% and the SocDems on 5% according to RedC.

But momentum goes both ways and both the Labour and Renua seem to have slumped even further compounding thoughts of speedy recoveries. Maybe dead cats don’t bounce.

So what next. The two scenarios going forward (I know, shoot me) are as follows:

1. Fine Gael cobbles together a minority administration with independents and others dependant on Fianna Fail to get anything done. This is the most likely eventuality and I would be shocked if it didn’t happen. Almost as shocked as I’d be if said government lasted more than 12 months.

2. A grand coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna fail is still possible. This is by far the most popcorn worthy option but we all now it can never happen because they both disagree on… on… on…. wait don’t tell me… it’ll come to me.

There are folks that say a Fianna Fail minority is possible. They spent most of the mid naughties in a certain tent in Ballybrit.

In closing let me just remind you that a second election before the end of the year is currently 7/2 on Paddy Power. Not that you should take tips from me.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based psephologist.