Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Irish General Election 2020: Latest Polls in Final Week


To be fair, perhaps Jody Corcoran in his latest article in the Irish Independent had not seen the results of the overnight Red C poll which had FF and SF neck and neck on 24% and FG trailing behind on 21%. Either way, he has his calculations seriously askew and from that makes some further bizarre predictions and suggestions.

So if you are using his political analysis as an election barometer, thread carefully, because it is laden with outright inaccuracies, deliberate or not, and the usual 'Indo' editorial biases. Clearly Mr. Corcoran has made up his mind what type of government he wants and the rest of us are getting it whether we like it or not!

In order of likelihood, the choices are: Fianna Fail, the Greens, Labour (possibly Social Democrats) and a handful of Independents either within or without the Government: In other words, a centre to centre-left Government.

And then he goes on to suggest....

Let us make that more simple: if Fianna Fail wins 60 seats and the Greens and Labour 20 between them, then that will be the new Government, with a buffer of three or so Independents support them based on individual deals.

Considering FF are somewhere in the mid 20% (24-26%), I have no clue how Corcoran can extract 60 seats from that figure. Equally, Labour are somewhere in the 4-6% ballpark. Any party on that kind of figure has no hope of returning more than a handful of seats, let alone securing 10+ seats. If the Green Party are also to meet such heady heights (double figure seats), they will have to smash through the 10% ceiling. This is the ceiling where seats returned start to significantly exceed your overall percentage share, particularly if your candidates are concentrated in the Dublin constituencies. In other words the Green Party would have to return 15+ seats and while they will surge I simply don't see them getting close to that kind of return.

It's the same reason why a party like FF or FG with 25%+ can return 50+ seats or more. The higher your percentage share means your seat returns rise exponentially. They have the vast national spread of candidates throughout the country compared to Sinn Fein's 40+ candidates. It's also the reason why Sinn Fein's lack of candidates this election has left political strategists baffled. Clearly SF themselves greatly underestimated how far they could break the 20% ceiling.

But Corcoran is spot on on one thing about Sinn Fein.

This is not to say that Sinn Fein support will fall back as then from 20pc to 13.8pc of the vote, but in my view it will find it difficult to breach the 20pc barrier in this election, nor will it win the number of seats its still good performance should deliver. Not this time anyway.

Yes, Sinn Fein's vote has swung erratically election to election, and notoriously struggles to convert percentage share to actual seats. Either Corcoran is ignoring recent polls that show the party consistently well above 20% or he is correct that it will once again come down to a lack of voter conviction as to where they place their number one and transfer preferences.

We will know the answer to that sometime late next Sunday evening. By then we will also have the more solid and accurate exit polls.

Corcoran's FF/Green/Labour coalition of 80 seats, at best, is somewhat fanciful.

His second prediction is that of a Fine Gael/Sinn Fein coalition or supply and support alliance (perhaps with additional minor party support). We are moving from the fanciful to the outright preposterous!

But throw in "new friends" the Greens and, well then, maybe; and old friends Labour, or both. It is worth recalling, as we reported last year, that Fine Gael has privately polled the public's view on a Fine Gael, Sinn Fein and Labour Government.

Frankly, Corcoran seems to have Labour on the brain!

But let's get back to reality.

There is zero indication that either of the two main centre right parties are going to break the 30% threshold or even get near it. Traditionally, as election day nears, figures tighten. The 'don't knows' finally make up their minds.

Perhaps Corcoran in his analysis might have been better to ask the more pertinent question which may have elucidated a far more acute analysis - if Sinn Fein as a party is going to make significant gains and push well above the 20% ceiling, where are those votes coming from?

Time will tell, but my own analysis suggests it is not where the public perception and media seem to be suggesting it is coming from. That is - from the two main parties. I'm sorry, but core FF/FG voters don't do SF. That is not where their transfers go.

Remember that meme graphic I shared last week, cataloging the successive parties in Irish governments since 1937?

Irish voters have a long history of shifting sands rather than seismic waves of political change. In other words, if FG can't fix it, let's try FF again. As a nation, we've been doing the same thing for decades. We talk and reminisce about our political and cultural history a great deal. But at heart, we are still locked into two-party conditioning.

In other words, what FG leaks, FF mops up - to you, to me, to you, to me.... And the Green Party push is likely coming from new young voters entering the political system.

So, the question once again, where is Sinn Fein getting those extra votes if it happens?

Most likely, the left-field minor parties and independent candidates, and old hardcore Labour and Workers Party voters. In recent elections, we've seen a slight shrinking of the individual independent candidates as minor parties are formed or small alliance blocks. I think over recent years it is why (outside of core Sinn Fein voters), their vote share has been so volatile.

As yet, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has seemed reluctant to form left-wing alternatives and alliances. Indeed, it is one of the reasons that SF detractors have claimed that the party is less left-wing, more centre-socialist in manifesto.

As parties move closer to tangible government, there is always the side-shift closer to the centre. McDonald will be mindful of what happened the Green Party and Labour in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s when they entered government. In short, the two main centre-right parties were once again let off the hook, and its minor coalition parties in government were utterly annihilated at subsequent elections.

In conclusion, I must disagree and differ with what Jody Corcoran's two main electoral outcomes will deliver from the voters.

Most likely....

1. As you were... voters will reluctantly return FF marginally ahead of FG and we will reenter another supply & support government. But this time FF will be in the driving seat. In other words - two cheeks, same arsehole.

2. SF will manage to hold some of that surge and just about pip FG as second seat party. In other words, voters will punish FG more than expected in losses and say: okay, SF, get off the fence, you have one chance - prove yourself in government and be the tail wagging the dog. But that is they key. FG will have to suffer such seat losses that even propping up a FF minority government is simply not viable.

Unless the polls are completely wrong, old habits are broken, I don't see FF/FG suffering the degree of rejection and annihilation that would bring SF to the fore with just 40+ electable candidates as a dictating government party. FF/FG would have to hemorrhage so many first preferences and transfers to the minor parties to remotely leave SF as a lead party in government formation.

As I've suggested before... change doesn't come overnight or in one single election. It is a long process of subsequent elections. A good election for SF would be to become the main opposition party. Build on that and don't make the mistake you made next time by not running at least 50+ candidates.

Ultimately the voters decide. But in politics, as always, you don't always get the government you decide.


I still can't fathom what Corcoran was smoking when he wrote his piece, but here are the 2016 election percentages and seats won. There is simply no mathematical way any party can attain 60 seats on 25%. The party would need to be in the low 30% bracket to achieve that. Perhaps he is a closet FF fanboy or maybe he just thought no one would statistically fact-check his piece. But this is the problem with many mainstream political media pieces - misguided opinion dressed up as critical analysis

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Irish General Election 2020: Old Ways Die Hard

I'm always staggered by these political memes (main image). Contrived to make a point, but ignorant of history.

Ask yourself these questions?

Why does it start at 1937?

Where do you think the politicians who formed FF and FG came from?

Why are all the successive parties who entered coalition and yet none mentioned - Labour, Progessive Democrats, Democratic Left and the Green Party - as if they never existed in government and we have had single party government for 80 straight years?

What party won 73 seats out of 105 in 1918 and declared itself the party of a new Dáil Éireann?

But probably the most damning question - why do people in Ireland insist on voting for almost a hundred years on party lines and adoration and family affiliations when the new Irish Free State (1921-2) was created on the principle of PR (Proportional representation)?

Irish voters... have you learned nothing in 100 years how this actually works? I'll give you a clue.

Playing political swinger at a party eventually gets boring. You've shagged them. They've shagged you, in kind. It's been a blast over the years. You are just going from one party you fancy to the next best party you fancy. But you are allowed switch to someone else if you get bored with those. You've never really thought this swinging thing through fully - and that maybe every political party that says you are lovely and they care for you, just meant a quick shag for four or five years. You want real love and someone who cares for you?

Fair enough. Then stop fucking about with the same old shagging crew!

Make a change for you, not because your mate told you so-and-so is great and you will enjoy being shagged by them in the moment. But you may regret it afterwards. Because, you know, we all do stupid things, and then regret them afterwards. But years later we still find ourselves doing the same thing again and getting involved with the same party crowd and just doing what our friends do.

I'll say what I said in political terms last week. Change doesn't come in a one party election term: it takes time to create a viable alternative partner. Your political partner grows with you if you support them and they support you.

I don't think Ireland is really politically ready and experienced enough to know who shagged them and who didn't. It's just a merry-go-around of who didn't shag and abused me as a voter recently. Ah, sure, maybe they've changed!

The problem with the meme - Ireland has been progressing from single-party politics for more than three decades. But it takes a full generation to escape institutions of church and politics. But because Ireland is slipping into political divides - not party - but rural against city: younger people are increasingly falling back on 'mammy & daddy' voted this way and times were better then, or I've no interest and don't bother voting because my vote doesn't count. It DOES.

But you have been conditioned into a party-first mindset and not a full use of the PR voting system. PR voting is a killer for dominant political parties, but they won't let you know that. Be honest in the comments. Who has voted in Proportional Representation and really understands the sequences of their vote if they bother beyond voting 1, 2, 3 .... if even that.

I've covered a number of Irish elections in the 1990s, talked to 'tally-men' and political strategists, and they are still staggered by the amount of PR ballot papers that reflect a single 'mark' on a candidate. I learned that in the 2010s GEs, full use of the ballot paper (later count preferences) was as low as 20%. That is fucking shocking. Irish voters still don't seem to get that if you don't use the ballot fully, and just place a mark on a candidate/party, that's it, if the candidate is eliminated, there IS NO TRANSFER. How can there be. You didn't state preferences 2, 3, 4, 5 etc!

Irish Government Announce Rescue Deal for FAI

The Irish minister for transport and tourism, Shane Roos, today unveiled a refinance deal with the beleaguered FAI

What I'm unsure of is how much UEFA is underwriting the annual grant increase and their underwriting of the new 7.5 million euro (interest-free loan) over three years. The Sport Ireland annual funding of 2.9 m is exclusive of UEFA. That is a state funding grant between the government and the FAI. But I welcome the doubling of the fund to 5.8 million euro from 2020. It is well overdue. But I would like more detail of where the additional funds come from.

In a nutshell, here is the essence of the deal:

1. Bank of Ireland have agreed to withdraw the threat of calling in the AVIVA Stadium repayments and requesting an administrator on the asset. The government will work with a third party agent so the repayments bypass the FAI and go directly to the Bank of Ireland. This process will continue until 2024, when the FAI will take back the repayments on the stadium loan, and begin repaying the interest-free loan of 7.5 million.

2. Here is what is important to stress that I have no doubt the barstoolers will fold their arms and put on the angry faces about tax-payer money. It isn't!! It is Bank of Ireland's refinance deal of 7.5 million. In other words, BOI have agreed to a temporary arrangement of three years where the government administer the repayments to BOI with a loan term extension and topping up the overall amount by 7.5 million. Think of it like a bridging loan which will be handed back to the FAI in 2024 without the additional interest which BOI have agreed to wave.

3. Sport Ireland have released the 2.9 (2019) grant to the FAI but it comes with significant stipulations as to where the money goes. The government have ring-fenced it to development levels, LOI and and local areas. Again, the FAI have agreed to use state funding through a third party working with Sport Ireland rather than from the FAI accounts.

4. As above, the doubling of the annual state funding to 5.8 million from 2020 requires a third party administrator working with the new four independent and outside members. It cannot go into FAI accounts. This is the area UEFA has agreed to cede some ground for three years. Technically, UEFA don't allow government interference but it seems they have agreed to this third party compromise as a way around their regulations. I want to be clear about that 5.8 million. I'm still working with colleagues as to the exact details. My current understanding is that it is a 50/50 split between UEFA and the government state fund. But UEFA's commitment is strictly for three years. The FAI is on its own from 2024.

So, before the barstoolers take over.... let's summarise.

No. This isn't a government tax-payer bailout. You will hear that on social media in the coming hours and days. The 7.5 million has been extended by BOI. The state funding increase from 2020 is an agreement between the government and UEFA and we are not likely to know publicly what that shared split is. Otherwise, UEFA would have every member state jumping up for a dig out. I cannot confirm this (so with caution), my suspicion is that once again UEFA have partly or wholly funded that new share of the 5.8 million from advancing the FAI Euro co-host payments and grants through 2020/23. Regarding the interest-free 7.5 million loan... I simply don't know. Perhaps UEFA have underwritten the interest payments but I doubt they are directly contributing to that.

There are no excuses now for the FAI. They were never going to get a free 18 million bailout.

They have a governance plan to adhere to. The pressure of the AVIVA payments have been removed for three years. They have new interim members and independent members at the top. They have footballing and business people involved with no baggage to the old regime. Their operational costs are looked after for the next three years. There are no excuses now and going forward.

But this come with a caveat. the lower FAI council. None of us are fools here. We all know that 60+ strong council is still rife with local community influence from politicians and local businessmen and women, inserting themselves into clubs, particularly in rural areas. That still needs to be eradicated in the coming years. It is up to the new independent appointees to ensure the insidious culture of brown envelopes, meet you at the petrol pump or mass in the parish church on Sunday does not attempt to reinsert its head above the wall and onto future boards. Because in the years to come, a new generation of future board members are still going to try and emerge from this ugly past with a local wink and a nod for enough council votes.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Irish General Election 2020: Your Vote is Important

Irish President Michael D. Higgins dissolves the 32nd Dail

I always get a sense of 'here we go again' when an Irish general election is announced. Social media can often skew public feeling. I always ask myself - more of the same when the results come in or some kind of change? Like most social media input and public comments on news media websites, you'd swear every election in Ireland is on the brink of a political and voting revolution.

Prepare for the increased social media wave of angst and protest and 'our time has come' and 'we'll teach FG-FF a lesson' in the chatrooms, barrooms, church car parks, radio and TV shows over the coming three weeks.

But come election day, the same people protesting and giving out for the past few years about governance decisions and policy will slip quietly into their polling stations and plant a firm 1, 2, 3 etc right where they always do, next to the guys and gals who have an FG or FF after their name on the voting sheet.

Perhaps if Irish voters *really and truly* want significant party change, the first step is to rid ourselves of the above voting hypocrisy. Protesting and giving out is not change of itself. Change happens when you *actually* vote differently.

Ireland like many western countries is dominated by large political parties. But unlike some western countries, particularly in mainland Europe, Ireland is not well-served with alternative party options. Outside of the third largest party (Sinn Fein), most smaller parties simply don't have the all-constituency infrastructure to maximise a swing in popular votes towards them in a single election. Large city and rural areas can also be very diverse in voting, combined with its proportional representation system. Particularly in rural areas, local politics plays an important role, even in national general elections.

Dáil Éireann is made up of 158 TDs (MPs), but over the past ten years the country has increasingly shifted away from majority, single-party government. Recent FG-FF governments have relied on 'support & confidence' agreements because no single party can attain an 80 seat majority and this is unlikely to change in the coming years. Now, attaining 50+ seats places a party in a strong post-election position to form a working government using party coalition or, as above, with a secondary 'support & confidence' party.

The choice for voters is that there are few realistic alternatives to the two dominate right-of-centre parties. In essence, there is no cohesive left-of-centre block of parties. Due to the historical political landscape and animosity, both main parties are completely adverse to coalitions with Sinn Fein. Outright social and left wing parties in Ireland over the past three or four decades have split resulting in a significant but a multitude of single independent TDs with highly diverse political agendas from the right-to centre-to left. In the modern era of Irish politics, smaller parties like the Progressive Democrats, Democratic Left and Renua have dissolved or disappeared without elected seats. Even attempts at forming Independent Alliances rarely stay the course and are often one-election term alliances.

Ireland does have a Green Party, but again it does not have a constituency ground structure to maximise any significant amount of seats that the recent local election swing suggested it could benefit from. Its Labour party is but a shadow of itself in low seat single figures.

And therein is the heart of the Irish political conundrum for Irish voters every national election. No viable party alternatives. Despite a proportional election system, once the election is called, it's back to your corners and every party for itself, still trapped in historical delusions of single-party power, which confounds the whole idea of proportional party politics. I sometimes wonder if all Irish political parties have forgotten that we vote on a PR system and voters are heavily influenced by local representation, like councils, not first-party-past-the-post.

Change and power shifts in party politics rarely happen over a single election. But we need to separate protest and giving out about particular government or party politics and understand that change does not happen through hypocrisy (saying one thing and doing another) but requires an action of purpose.

YOUR vote is important. It is a constitution right. You cannot even begin to effect change unless YOU change. It is no good doing the same thing again and relying on others to effect that change or believing YOUR single vote will change nothing so I might as well do what I've always done. That is not change!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Amsterdam Diary: Out with the old, in with the new!

The cats are holed up in the house, safe from the cracking and banging of fireworks outside. Zaandam has sounded like a far off war zone since 10am this morning. I'm looking forward to the fireworks display outside after midnight when we welcome in the new year.
The one benefit of being an Irishman in the Netherlands is that you get to celebrate the New Year on the double, once at midnight, and again at 1am with my far off friends and family in Ireland. It's a chance to restart 2014 if you mess it up first time around!
At times, 2013 has felt a little like it overstayed its welcome, and more than once this year I asked "is it over yet!" There was just a few too many bumps and challenges along the road for my liking! If I could sum up 2013, it would be an obstacle course of challenges and surprises, some more pleasant than others, and yet with every low, there was never a high too far down the road to lift the spirit and invigorate you for the next bump.
I'm a planner and something of a Mr. Predictability. 2013 was like Forest Gump's Box of Chocolates - you just never knew what you'd be biting into next. I published books this year I never imagined or conceived this time last year, and yet several books I was sure would see the light of day before the year's end, never got past the planning or editing stages - running a small business and everyday life always took precedence.
I crossed two continents and tread footsteps in four different countries during 2013. I couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement of family and good friends. 2013 was first and foremost about people, not places or material things, renewed acquaintances, closer friendships and new Dutch friends - thank you Esther, Bill and Amber.
We also bid a reluctant farewell to Koos, gone to play upon that big drumkit in the sky. We hope justice in 2014 will see that he is treated with a kinder hand than he was in the final months of his life.
Tonight, I won't do what I vowed I would do so many months ago, and slam the door shut on 2013. I'll close it respectfully, and be thankful that's all done with now.2014 is full of partnership, projects and new beginnings, and I'm looking forward to the journey, whatever it brings, maybe even abook or two into the mix!
Time to do what we do best...
Let's roll together.
Happy New Year to all.