OPINION: Yawn. the Most Boring Election in Irish history.(Features)

Sunday Mirror (London, England), May 19, 2002 | Go to article overview

OPINION: Yawn. the Most Boring Election in Irish history.(Features)


Byline: TERRY PRONE Electoral analyst

FIANNA Fail could have been interesting, but didn't want to be. Fine Gael wanted to be interesting, but didn't know how.

The PDs were desperate to be interesting, but managed it only at Dandy/Beano level. The Labour Party wanted to be interesting only up to a point, and the point was Ruairi's 6 Point Charter.

The media wanted them all to be interesting, preferably by stepping into open manholes, real or figurative. There you have it. The rationale behind the most boring general election in Irish history.

Bertie Ahern started to fight this election five years ago. He had to re-define his party. That meant putting as much space as possible between his government and every previous administration.

Which, in turn, meant outlasting every previous government. Which, in turn, made every other decision easy.

So, every time conflict threatened with the Progressive Democrats, the Taoiseach did what he had to do to ensure those five years. He took whatever humiliation the PD leader delivered. Every time the hacks said this was a grovel too far, that if he caved in again his own grassroots would turn against him, he still did it.

And you know what? The grassroots went on being grassroots. Within a fortnight nobody could remember the controversy. FF stayed in power.

The pressure to go to the country started a year ago, but the Taoiseach's quiet, unstated determination held. His own guys got rattled. FF never had it so good, poll-wise. What was he hanging on for? Mark their words, it was going to turn sour. Any minute now.

None of them noticed that, while they were urging an election, in another small European country, a hugely popular Prime Minister, reading ecstatic opinion polls, decided it was time to cut and run.

At the end of the three week campaign, the opinion polls and the Prime Minister were eating crow and another party was in power.

Not many people in Ireland noticed that. But the Taoiseach did, and it added to his belief that being interesting, dramatic and exciting was not the way to go.

He would hang on to the last possible minute, he would dissolve the Dail the dullest possible way, he would run a campaign of smiles and handshakes, not great claims.

So FF would neither make big boasts about what this Government had achieved, nor visionary speeches about a new Ireland.

If Bertie Ahern looked at the election coverage he would have been delighted at the scarcity of quotes from him. He didn't want to get into Dictionaries of Quotations. He wanted to get back into office.

Management, not leadership. Administration, not ideology. Continuation, not change. They were the choruses to the Fianna Fail song.

Many, if not most voters were better off than they were five years ago. Better welfare payments. Better chance of being in a job. Better chunk of their salary going to them, rather than to the taxman. …

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OPINION: Yawn. the Most Boring Election in Irish history.(Features)
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