“Here in the RDS, as counting continues, it is becoming very clear that Fianna Fail have not suffered the meltdown that opinion polls over the last 12 months have been projecting. Fianna Fail look certain to pass the 61 seat mark, a loss of 16 seats which given the circumstances is a result I think many Fianna Failers will be quite happy with. Although Fine Gael have reached 59 seats, and are hyping it as their best result since 1982, the fact is that there is bitter disappointment in the party that they are not the largest party, something which many in Fine Gael had been taking as a done deal for the last two years. I’ve spoken to at least two Dublin Fine Gael deputies who have said that it was the so-called Enda Factor that failed to deliver extra seats in Dublin, and halt the rise of Eamonn Gilmore.
Labour’s 40 seats, their best result ever, has been arrived at by a solid if unspectacular performance outside Dublin, and a strong swing to Labour in Dublin and Cork at the cost of every other party, where the party has won two seats in five constituencies. The Greens and Sinn Fein will be returning to the Dail with possibly a single seat each, although both Martin Ferris and Paul Gogarty are still in the hunt for the last seats in their respective constituencies.
Sources in Fianna Fail are expressing relief at the results, and Taoiseach Brian Lenihan is being hailed as the key figure in Fianna Fail’s fightback, following Brian Cowen’s resignation for health reasons last Christmas. In particular, the Taoiseach’s frank televised apology for the government’s failings, shortly after taking office, has been highlighted by pollsters as the moment that Fianna Fail began to recover. Fianna Fail’s decision not to contest last June’s presidential election, instead endorsing Labour nominee Fergus Finlay, stunned the political world, but saved the government party over 750,000 euro which Labour and Fine Gael had to spend fighting each other in the campaign. Finlay, although not seeking the FF nomination, refused to reject Fianna Fail votes, and was elected. But what really turned the campaign, according to polls, was the debate between the three party leaders, where Lenihan suggested that he intended to nominate some non-Fianna Fail people to his cabinet, and where polls say that the FG leader was vague and unconvincing about his own policies.
As results come in, the Taoiseach has conceded defeat and announced his resignation as Taoiseach. He intriguingly suggested that Fianna Fail should not rule out serving in a government led by Eamonn Gilmore, pointing out that he was willing to discuss any option which was for the good of the country, including serving under Gilmore. This has caused an angry reaction within Fine Gael, with one deputy claiming it would be unconstitutional for the government to be led by a smaller party, although we have yet to find a single lawyer who agrees. Sources within Labour have responded sharply to the comments by Fine Gael, pointing out that Fine Gael does not have a right to decide Labour’s course of action. They also compliemented the Taoiseach on his “gracious” decision to resign promptly.
Finally, one Fine Gael deputy has told me that if Enda Kenny is not Taoiseach by teatime on the day the new Dail convenes, he will, and I quote, be “on his arse” by supper. Back to the studio.”