The overwhelming feeling as the second week of campaigning draws to a close is one of regret on all sides.
For starters, the electorate regrets giving the property lunatics the keys to the asylum. If Ireland is to have a Tahir Square it shouldn’t be outside Kildare Street, but further out towards the airport. To be precise, it should be right outside Fagan’s pub in Drumcondra, home of Bertie and the lads who discovered a foolproof way of making money- by selling property for more than you paid for it. Sure how could we lose?
For Fine Gael, it is Enda Kenny. They had their chance to remove him last year and they didn’t take it, and man are they regretting it now. He has become the political equivalent of Brian Keenan, much talked-about but essentially chained to a radiator and not allowed out when it comes to the debates which are the meat and drink of politics.
He is in a no-win situation when he finally takes the podium, whether it be a five-way or three-way debate. He is now seen as a bottler, a man who can’t debate at all, a man running scared and not in control of his own party. His critics will be merciless and it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he will be slated at the debates. Not a good impression to create if you have aspirations to lead the country.
Fianna Fáil regret everything, but they won’t be telling you that. For too long, the parliamentary party allowed the power to be funnelled straight to the top, creating a meritocracy whereby your position was determined by how popular you were. Popularity was measured in terms of silent acquiescence and defending the leadership, and backbenchers queued up at the Baghdad Bob School of Political Commentary to study the fine art of empty platitudes. Pat Carey topped the class year after year, but to no avail; he, like many others, will soon be surplus to requirements in Leinster House.
For Sinn Féin, it is Gerry Adams. The more Pearse Doherty finds his feet, the more the decision to run Adams seems a colossal misjudgement. In the south, Adams represents the past, and whatever about the talked-of (and generally non-existent) spirit of conciliation in the north, he is forever linked to the likes of Jean McConville in the minds of the southern electorate.
Sinn Féin had the chance to cut the ties with the dark days, but like Fianna Fáil they didn’t take it and in doing so they may have curtailed what could have been a spectacular breakthrough in electoral politics in the south.
For Labour, it is tax. For once they thought the other parties would be a pushover on the economic front, sharing as they do a grá for the kind of unfettered capitalism that destroyed the nation. In Joan Burton they have an extremely capable (if very annoying) spokesperson, but somehow they have taken their eye off the ball and allowed the others to paint them as a high-tax party again. In an election where economics is the only show in town, this is an unforgiveable mistake.
Even for the postitive force that the independents are becoming, there is one overriding regret- that they didn’t do this sooner. I wrote last week about the biggest lie of all, about the misconception that some guy or girl in a suit on a party poster actually has any idea how to run the country when in fact they haven’t a clue. The independents have realised this, and the campaign trail is rich with the smell of the blood of established politicians – such as Michael Lowry in North Tipp - as they go in for the kill.
Still, better late than never, and their regret at coming late to the party will soon be tempered by the knowledge that they have sidelined some of the country’s most notorious political shysters for good.
Finally this week, a plea to your better judgement. Last week the “Irish” Mail revealed its true colours using some of the tactics that have made it one of the most hated publications in the English gutter press- an area with some stiff competition, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
The spivs that run this “Irish” paper chose to exploit the difficulties being experienced by their fellow journalists at the Sunday Tribune by wrapping their paper in a false masthead; at a stroke, they sought to fool the good readers of the Tribune and exploit the appalling circumstances the journalists found themselves in, all to sell a few thousand extra copies to people who would probably never buy their paper again anyway.
This Sunday, it is probably not enough to simply not buy the “Irish” Mail on Sunday or the “Irish” Daily Mail if you want to make a stand. Instead, go to your newsagent and tell them that until such time as he or she removes the “Irish” Mail from sale, you’ll get your papers elsewhere. By doing this you can ensure that the only place such a despicable rag can be found in Ireland is in a bin- and next week, hopefully it won’t be found at all.