The Party’s Over

Voting booths have just opened in 43 constituencies all over Ireland in an attempt to choose 165 representatives from 566 hopefuls to make up the next Irish government. Since 1932, Ireland’s largest political party, Fianna Fáil, has been the main government party for nearly 60 years in total and has been in power for all but 30 months in the last 24 years. This period of time coincided with the affluence of the Celtic Tiger, but also with its recent collapse. As a result, the party’s dominance in the opinion polls has also collapsed by almost two-thirds since the 2007 election. Fine Gael, historically the country’s second party, have benefitted the most, while Labour, Sinn Féin and Independent candidates have also seen promising increases in their support. What all this means is that Fine Gael will be the main party after the voting has been completed and will most likely form a coalition with Labour. For the first time in the nation’s history, the “Soldiers of Destiny” look like being relegated to third place. The party’s slump in popularity forced many of its members to jump ship before the election was called and will see many more lose their seats this weekend. This frightening scenario has seen at least one former government minister resort to desperate measures in order to hold onto his seat

Willie O’Dea’s first attempt at getting elected to Dáil Eireann 1981 in was unsuccessful, but he made it the following year and on a further seven occasions. He has topped the poll in the Limerick East constituency at each of the last five elections, going back to 1989. In 2007, he received one of the highest personal votes in the country as he gained more than twice the number of votes required to get elected. This surplus allowed his less popular party colleague, Peter Power, to take a second seat for Fianna Fáil in the five-seater constituency. However, he received much criticism at the time as the three Fianna Fáil candidates had received enough first preferences between them to win three seats. In contrast, Fine Gael also managed to win two seats with only half the number of first preferences as their rivals. Willie managed to put his foot in it again in 2005 when he posed for the above photo while acting as Minister for Defence. He got into further trouble twelve months ago when it was revealed that he had made false allegations a year earlier against the brother of another local politician, Maurice Quinlivan of Sinn Féin. O’Dea settled the case out of court and made a full apology to Quinlivan. He was subsequently forced to resign as Minister for Defence when Fianna Fáil’s coalition partners threatened to pull out of government if he remained as minister. Subsequently, O’Dea has spent much of the past year in the background and his seat would seem to be more secure than other members of his party

Despite his huge personal vote in 2007 and his continued popularity in Limerick, O’Dea is making sure that he won’t be one of the casualties this weekend. He’s obviously worried that the expected national collapse in Fianna Fáil’s vote will mean fewer votes for him as well. It’s certainly possible that he might only get one quota this time around. Worrying times. In addition, the former Limerick East constituency has been renamed Limerick City and has lost a seat. It’s now a four-seater and all five of its sitting candidates are running again, which means that at least one of them will lose out. This is the constituency that I’ll be voting in and I’ll be giving my first preference to Jan O’Sullivan of the Labour party and my second to her party colleague, Joe Leddin. I’m confident that Jan will make it along with Michael Noonan of Fine Gael and, sadly, O’Dea. The fourth seat is likely to go to Kieran O’Donnell of Fine Gael. This means that Willie’s running “mate”, Peter Power, will be one of Fianna Fáil’s many losers this weekend. Instead of looking after his junior colleague, O’Dea has decided to make his own position more secure by effectively stabbing Power in the back by distributing this “urgent message” to Fianna Fáil supporters in Limerick city:

In his message, O’Dea acknowledges his fears that the Fianna Fáil vote may collapse and warns that splitting the two candidate’s share of the pie may leave them with no representation. Worried that the good people of Limerick could be deprived of his magnificent work for them, Willie unselfishly urges his party’s supporters to forget about Power and give him their first preferences. But who are the “other candidates” who are urging supporters to vote for “them” at his expense? This can only refer to his “party colleague”, who he makes a token attempt to show solidarity with by asking people to give their second preference to Power. This gesture is completely worthless as O’Dea is unlikely to be in any position to benefit Power as his surplus will be significantly lower than in 2007. Nice one, Willie. I must admit that I won’t be too unhappy to see the back of Power, a back that must be metaphorically covered in stab wounds at this stage. Here are three songs from three different Willies that offer some advice that O’Dea might do well to heed

A Two Faced Man – James Wee Willie Wayne

It’s Not You, It’s Me – The Little Willies

The Party’s Over – Willie Nelson

Thanks to Dave Tobin for the photo of the urgent message