Out of the West
Plants, propaganda and a pitiful per cent

It’s been my experience that people up here don’t know as much about Dublin politics as they should.
Oh sure, they know the Taoiseach, everybody knows Bertie. But I guarantee you that you’d be lucky if one person out of five could tell you who the Tanaiste is; or the leader of the Labour Party; or the name of the second house; or the name of the first house, come to that.
So here’s a little question: what percentage of the popular vote in Ireland do you imagine that the Progressive Democrats – coalition government partners and the party of Justice Minister Michael McDowell – commands?
Given the arrogance and hubris with which Michael goes about his business, you think it’s pretty high, don’t you?
You probably think they’re up there challenging Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Twenty per cent, perhaps. 25 even.
Do you suspect that that premier league self-righteousness, that Olympics-level tub-thumping must be worth 30 per cent?
Well, no, actually.
Michael and his chums may be in government, but in the 2002 Dáil elections they claimed just 6 per cent of the vote, which, for a party which includes such heavy-hitters as Mary Harney, the boul’ Michael and Liz O’Donnell is not good; not good at all.
For a party which was founded by Des O’Malley in 1985 and which presented itself as a new and thrusting alternative in an era of Charlie Haughey, tribunals and brown envelopes, pathetic might be a better word.
Which you would think puts the PDs in that political ante-room where gather the Alliance Party, the UKUP and the PUP.
Yet low and all as that figure is, the PDs have Mary as Tanaiste and Michael as Minister for Justice (oh, and Equality and Law Reform as well).
Which is a kind of long-winded way of saying that a relatively few votes can get you a very long way these days.
But I bet you look at Michael in a different way next time you see him on the box.

With ten weeks to go until the local and Westminster elections, and at least a year and probably two before the next Dáil elections, you have to wonder whether Sinn Féin’s detractors may not have peaked just a little bit early.
If republicans have an ounce of sense, they’ll sort the Robert McCartney thing out post-haste – whether at this stage they are capable of doing that is open to question; if not, they’ve nobody to blame but themselves.
But gradually, there’s a growing sense among nationalists that Sinn Féin are being put to the wall in a way that is both hysterical and unfair, and if most think that it would be a very good idea indeed if the IRA folded up its tent and went away, they also think that venomous ad hominem attacks on senior Sinn Féin figures is rather a cack-handed way of going about it. That’s if this is about the IRA at all – something about which increasing numbers are deeply suspicious.

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