It’s reasonable to say that Fianna Fail has had a good election. First, by not contesting, they have saved themselves a fortune in an election that will be pretty much forgotten as soon as President-elect Higgins is sworn in. In contrast, Fine Gael must be feeling humiliated and empty pocketed after the whole chastening experience. For them, it has certainly taken the shine off their general election win, and shown that hubris can be a terrible thing in Irish politics.
But there are lessons for Fianna Fail. Firstly, the party’s very satisfactory performance in the Dublin West by-election has shown that candidate selection still trumps party label in most Irish elections. Cllr. McGuinness’s message about not electing another government TD didn’t quite work, but was effective enough all the same for a party that had been comprehensively rejected a mere eight months ago. It shows that some wayward Fianna Fail voters are willing to return to the fold.
Having said that, they’d want to watch the “We’re back!” chanting at the count, which brings me to my second point. The reason that Sean Gallagher, the de facto FF candidate, lost, in my opinion, was because he started giving the classic Fianna Fail defence, ducking and diving and giving more and more convoluted answers. Fianna Failers don’t seem to know this, perhaps because they are so used to it, but trying to give clever “technically correct” answers to questions isn’t clever. It’s shifty, and it’s a trait FF needs rid itself of. For an example of someone trying to give technically correct clever answers to a question, and making himself look like a tool, watch this. FF would do themselves no harm watching, because it isn’t the scandal that gets you, it’s the cover up.