Belfast Telegraph

The ‘pencil revolution’ redraws map

By Fionnan Sheahan

The voters waited in the long grass and exacted their retribution. Only a week ago, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin headed to his party heartland of Meath to appeal to his core supporters to back the party in a desperate bid to stave off some losses.

“This is old Fianna Fail,” then local party TD Johnny Brady said as he introduced his leader.

The party was entering the general election with four TDs in the county's two constituencies of Meath East and Meath West, albeit with the two former ministers retiring. A week is a long time in politics but what happened to Fianna Fail in this general election was determined well over two years ago.

Old Fianna Fail wasn't enough to save the party and Meath is one of the counties with no Fianna Fail TD in a symbolic result.

In a picture replicated across the country, Fine Gael took two of the party's seats to become the dominant force in the county, Labour the next seat and Sinn Fein the final.

Fianna Fail's calamitous performance has utterly redrawn the political map.

More than 470,000 voters abandoned the party. The 2011 general election was lost by Fianna Fail long before the Dail was dissolved.

The party's management of the economy, which proved to be its trump card in the 2007 general election campaign when the country voted for the good times to keep rolling, came back to bite Fianna Fail.

Mr Martin's attempts to rewrite history and recast Fianna Fail's image proved to be far too little, far too late.

Unlike the riots on the streets of Greece, the Irish people just bided their time and participated in the so-called pencil revolution.

Fianna Fail, the dominant force in politics for so long, is now just another party. The party lost almost three-quarters of its seats off an unprecedented 24% drop in its vote.

All the outgoing opposition parties and non-party candidates benefited from the groundwork put in over the past few years.

Fine Gael's bank of policy documents produced over the past two years gained the party credibility on economic affairs.

The Labour Party expressed the anger of those who had seen their lives devastated by the downturn and offered the chance to break from the Civil War parties.

Sinn Fein and Independent candidates and groups proposed alternative means of addressing the crisis.

The campaign over the past month actually changed very little and certainly not the minds of voters in their verdict on Fianna Fail.

The 31st Dail will be extremely diverse with the new government holding a majority block of about 112 TDs.

The opposition benches will be made up of a bruised and battered Fianna Fail on about 20 seats, a resurgent Sinn Fein on about 14 and a wide array of 20 others, including a block of hard left TDs.

To say it will be colourful is an understatement.

Belfast Telegraph

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