Who, what and when? – Gov’t collapse
As Cian points out, the Government’s majority is potentially down to the vote of one TD after Sligo-North Leitrim TDs Eamon Scanlon and Jimmy Devins resigned the Fianna Fáil whip today.
The Government now has 83 votes, including Jim McDaid but not today’s two. It consists of 72 Fianna Fáil TDs, 6 Greens, two former Progressive Democrats, Jackie Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry and Jim McDaid.
The Opposition is made up of 52 Fine Gaelers, 20 Labour TDs, four Shinners, Maureen O’Sullivan, Joe Behan and Finian McGrath – total, 79.
There is one vacant seat which will be filled by the winner of the Donegal bye-election. Then the two martyrs of today. The Ceann Chomhairle, former Fianna Fáil minister for arts, sport and tourism, John O’Donaghoe, would have the casting vote.
So, if today’s two decide to vote against the Government, as Joe Behan has done, then the government:opposition ratio will be 83:81. That would leave it in the hands of Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry or Jim McDaid. If one of that trio moves then there’s a hung Dáil, two – we’re on.
Considering that the Budget will undoubtedly impact the health system massively, the likelihood is that by that time the HSE will be receiving some awful press for its handling of swine flu and that the two martyrs have resigned over cut backs in the health system, the today’s two voting against the Budget is plausible. Being honest, I can’t see them voting against anything else prior but Budget will be a tester. I reckon this is a PR exercise, but one that they may live to regret. Still, the politics are worth exploring…
So, for the sake of argument lets take it that Scanlon and Devins will vote against the Budget…
Obviously Lowry is the most likely to move. While he’s a Fine Gaeler at heart, he has voted with the Gov’t since the last General Election. But there are a few scenarios that could see him make The Big Switch. The first – and least likeliest – is that in knowing the forthcoming revelations from the Moriarty Tribunal won’t paint him in a good light, he’ll look for positive press to balance the scales – switching allegiances thus causing the dominoes to begin falling could make him a God in North Tipp. And not alone would it concrete his seat, it would also bury all of Moriarty coverage. But, like I said, that’s least likely.
Alternatively, he could could do it in the first few weeks after the Dáil returns if Fine Gael table a motion that targets his voters’ demographic. That might force his hand.
However, the most likely scenario of the ones I’m proposing is that he’ll vote against the Budget in November. As I have said previously, Snip doesn’t treat rural Ireland nicely – the next budget is going to be largely based on Snip. Voting down a vicious budget, in the process saving the people of North Tipp from the wrath of the Department of Finance in Dublin and bringing down an extremely unpopular Fianna Fáil Government would make Michael a hero at home. Being seen to prop up the Fianna Fáilers would not look too spiffing.
If Cowen & Co. are to avoid Lowry voting against a Government, in my opinion, they’ll have to promise him the world. Doing that would not be easy. There is no doubt that the Budget will be painful for rural Ireland, farmers will be up in arms, the REPs scheme may go – these are not issues from which Lenihan could omit North Tipp.
But if Lowry doesn’t go, Healy-Rae might. While the man may appear to be a complete mess he is one of the must shrewd local politicians in the country. However, the Budget will also cause uproar amongst his constituents. My prediction: Healy-Rae won’t be quite so Fianna Fáil now that the Castleisland bypass has been signed off on. He may have Fianna Fáil in his blood but he’s a TD to the bone, the Budget will cause conversation in the Healy-Rae camp.
Of course there’s still a chance that McDaid could vote against his brothers. Some would argue he is more likely to do so than Healy-Rae, I’m not so sure. Other potential movers include Paul Gogarty and John McGuinness. Gogarty has been searching for something to vote against for months, the Budget, which will of course hit education, may just be too tempting. John McGuinness is an even less likely rebel but I wouldn’t put it past him.
So, to sum up, for the parties to switch sides would require today’s two and two more to vote for the Opposition, John O’Donaghoe is highly unlikely to vote against the Government.
While they’re safe for now they are looking more shaky than the period post-medical card debacle. The Fianna Fáil whip will have a big task to make sure all the crew show up for every vote. They still have to go through the Commission on Taxation report, the probable explosion in swine flu cases following the schools returning, Lisbon II, the Greens’ vote on the Programme for Government and then the renegotiation of the Programme for Gov’t, all before the Budget. If they do get through the Budget they’ll have to face a bye-election which would almost surely close what is left of the majority yet further…
Is there a way this Government can go full term? If not, any opinions on what will be the straw that breaks the camels back?
PS – Greens. Rocks & hard places.