The exit poll for the 2029 general election caused gasps in the studio. Recent polls had shown that the outgoing Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail coalition was struggling but still competitive. The New Democrats, led by former FG TD for Dublin Rathdown, Eve Hennessy, were doing better than expected. The polls had given the new party a consistent support level in the late-thirties, with her former party struggling to keep about 10%. But as the first boxes opened on the Saturday morning, there was much talk of what was termed “shy Tory syndrome”, where voters are embarrassed to admit to voting for certain (usually right wing) parties, but acting accordingly in the privacy of the polling booth.
Hennessy had been mocked when she had been elected in the disastrous (for FG) election of 2025 which had seen SF come to power. From a wealthy south Dublin family, Hennessy had proceeded to become one of the wealthiest people in the country when she founded the Banshee Group which manufactured both civilian and military drones. She had rapidly become disheartened with FG in opposition, and the prevailing belief that some sort of natural electoral pendulum would restore the party to power eventually. Watching SF in power, she simply did not accept that, and speaking in a debate in UCD (in what the media would call The Belfield Platform) she took no prisoners and outlined a broadly right wing view of how Ireland should proceed.
“…It is time to be blunt about it. The people who get out of bed to go to work, who do overtime, who save money to get a nicer car, or bring their kids to Disneyland, are national heroes. They, through their taxes, carry the country, fund the welfare system and should not have to apologize for wanting to keep some of their own money. It is their money.”
“…it is a liberal value to want to walk the streets without fear of attack, and yes, someone with a string of previous convictions should have those convictions taken into account, and put into prison, and that means that yes, we build more prisons. And if judges can’t understand society’s need for violent offenders to be jailed, then let’s get new judges. They are, after all, just public sector employees.”
“..I believe in the welfare system. I am a European, and I believe in the social safety net. What I don’t believe in is the “social leaba”, that those capable of working simply choose not to and put the lámh out. Let me give you something to ponder: what would happen if we restricted the dole, in a time of labour shortage, to 18 months? What would be the effect?”
The speech caused uproar, as it had been intended. It was no accident that Hennessy had made sure that the speech was recorded by a supporter in the audience. She also paid for extensive polling on the reaction to it.
The media response was as expected. She was denounced as an Irish Trump by some, and praised by others. The left demanded that she be barred from the media for hate speech, and reports were made to Gardai.
The following week, she launched The Belfield Institute, a think tank to explore the issues raised in her speech. Funded from her own resources, the institute was a mixture of young radical academics and savvy social media operators, and soon it was openly recruiting members for what many assumed would be the membership for a new political party.
The New Democratic Party was launched in late 2028, with a number of FG and FF TDs defecting to the party. A New Democratic Declaration was launched, setting out clear and unashamed centre-right values for the new party, with a clear intent to break through in the 2029 Local & European elections.
Polls quickly put the NDP in second place, challenging SF for the top slot in the mid 20s. FG dropped sharply as FG voters transferred straight to the new party, and every month saw a new policy announced designed to create a sharp difference with the main governing party. In the run-up to the elections the NDP came out clearly for a referendum on NATO membership but also, with the exception of Ukraine, opposing further expansion of the EU until the issue of rogue states was dealt with.
“Why on Earth should we let Serbia join? Why not just let the Russians appoint a European Commissioner directly? Ukraine is the shield of Europe. Serbia is the dagger in the back.” Hennessy said in a campaign speech.
The election results were encouraging for the new party. Sinn Fein came first, but lost seats on their spectacular results in 2024. The NDP came second, electing over 300 councillors and four MEPs including one former TD and Army Ranger. SF lost votes to the Alphabet Left parties, and FF/FG to the NDP. Labour, the Greens and the Soc Dems elected a few dozen cllrs between them, their vote bumping along where it was in the 2025 general election.
The news that the Taosieach immediately departed for the Áras to seek a general election was a surprise, although not without logic. Given the upward momentum of the NDP in the polls, she had decided that giving the new party time to further organise was not to Sinn Fein’s advantage. It came as a shock to see billboards and bus ads for the NDP appearing immediately, having been booked secretly under the name of an ad agency for a fake toothpaste campaign.
Hennessy was immediately attacked in the media and by her opponents for obviously spending huge amounts of money on the campaign. She addressed it head on: she had put millions of her own money into the campaign.
Isn’t that illegal? She was asked.
Yes, she said, Under Irish law it is. That why we launder it through the Tory-designed campaign donation laws in the north, the way Sinn Fein do. Only difference is that you just won’t see Northern Bank stamped on any of my bundles.
A convention quickly nominated a pre-agreed slate of candidates, with two and three running in every constituency.
With polling day only three weeks away, it was the most intense campaign in living memory. FF, FG and the minor parties had been caught completely unawares, and spent the first two weeks without posters on lampposts as they struggled to nominate candidates.
The NDP online campaign was well-resourced, matching Sinn Fein bot for bot, and two weeks out both parties were on 35%, the balance divided into single digits for all the other parties.
RTE decided that the Taoiseach’s debate would be a straight head to head. FF and FG, both barely breaking into double digits, stopped protesting after their demands to be included resulted in widespread piss-taking. Such hilarity was only matched by the 72 hour period where “Ivana for Taoiseach!” posters went up than went down. They later sold on eBay for over €200 each.
The RTE debate between Hennessy and Mary Lou drew huge attention, as both were questioned by the doyen of RTE journalism, Claire Byrne. Hennessy won the toss, and set out the core of her platform. She didn’t attack the government once, but elaborated on the areas she had mentioned previously.
The Taoiseach’s response was a savage attack on the NDP and Hennessy personally.
“These people are a bunch of neo-liberal Thatcherites led by a Trump wannabe. We’ve heard their agenda: dismantle the welfare system, throw the unemployed onto the streets. And led by a woman who makes billions selling weapons of war, I mean, you couldn’t make it up. She’s just short of rounding up Dalmatian puppies.”
“Eve Hennessy: do you want to dismantle the welfare state? I mean, you do want to time limit the dole, don’t you?”
“The welfare state is a vital part of the free enterprise system. Its safety valve. Of course we want to protect it, and protect those who through not fault of their own can’t work. I just don’t think PAYE workers should be losing their income because some lads don’t want to get out of bed in the morning when they are perfectly capable of working. Especially not in a time of labour shortage.”
“That’s exactly the sort of elitist right-wing nonsense we have been warning about.”
“You know, Mary Lou throws that word elitist around a lot. Let me tell you what is elitist. You scrapped tax benefits for people saving for their pensions whilst you, who makes a gross €200k a year as Taoiseach, relies on PAYE workers to fund your state pension. So here’s my elite question to you Mary Lou: If I’m elected Taoiseach I’ll not only not take a salary, but I will not take a state pension. Why don’t you fund your own pension out of your very tasty €200k salary rather than make PAYE workers pay for it? You currently pay a nominal contribution and get back a pension values at €2m.”
“This is just a gimmick. She’s not taking a salary because she’s a billionaire selling weapons that kill children!”
Hennessy pulled out a small sheet of paper, which she opened, and read out four constituencies, and the seven Sinn Fein TDs that represent them.
“The four Banshee factors employ between 500 and a thousand people in each of these constituencies. The salaries paid by them, and they are good salaries, are spent in local businesses. Last year we exported just over two billion euro in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle technology. So here’s my question: is a vote for those seven Sinn Fein TDs I mentioned a vote to close those factories?”
Claire Byrne looked at the Taoiseach for an answer.
“I mean, Poland, the Czechia, Estonia would all happily take them, but you know, I wanted them to create jobs in my own country. Call me old-fashioned.”
Claire Byrne pushed the Taoiseach for an answer.
“The government has no current plans to prevent this company operating.”
Claire Byrne turned to Hennessy.
“You’ve said you are opening to raising the retirement age?”
“Absolutely. If we don’t do it, 25 years from now when Mary Lou and I are off with our elite pensions our state pensioners will be reduced to eating dogfood.”
“That’s outrageous scaremongering!” the Taoiseach said loudly.
“You’re exaggerating surely,” Claire Byrne asked.
“You know, I’d like to ask everybody watching tonight a straight question: why do you think I am proposing such an unpopular policy? I’m a politician. I should want to be popular. I should be trying to undercut Mary Lou by letting people retire at 60. What’s in it for me pushing a policy that will clearly lose my party votes? Because it is right. Our population is getting older and living longer. Senior care costs are rising as medical technology prolongs life expectancy. We simply have to prepare for this. I mean, it’ll be OK for me and Mary Lou, we both have million euro pension funds. But anyone watching this under 45…just remember that when you reach 65 and find your pension is half of today’s buying power Mary Lou will be long gone and you won’t be able to blame her.”
“This is disgraceful Tory-style fearmongering,” Mary Lou countered.
“Fair enough: put your money where you mouth is. Renounce your Taoiseach’s pension and announce you’ll rely on the state pension everybody else does.”
“Let’s move on: Taoiseach, you attacked the New Democrats for promising tax cuts.”
“That’s right: it is nothing short of reckless to be promising tax cuts for the wealthy when we have such huge spending needs on public services. I mean, how are these going to be funded? What hospitals will be closed? They have published no figures.”
The NDP leader smiled.
“Mary Lou is quite right. We haven’t published figures, because we’re not quite sure what those figures are yet. Instead, we are going to address certain principles. This country is currently run on the idea that every single public service is underfunded and needs more money. It’s like a volcano god that constantly needs a virgin tossed into it to stop it erupting: Does it stop the volcano erupting? We have no idea, but it’s what we have always done so keep tossing. Let’s try something new. Next year, aside from an increase to keep up with inflation, we will not increase public spending. Instead we shall convene every public body to open hearings where their existing spending will have to be justified, and where the increases of the last five years will be matched to the improvements that presumably occurred as a result of those spending increases. Every invoice paid by a state body will be uploaded for public scrutiny. And the money scheduled for the increase, a figure Sinn Fein set in the last budget, will be given instead in a tax rebate. An affordable tax rebate which we know is affordable because it was projected to be spent in the last budget. We’re just using it as a rebate rather than a spending increase. These will be Sinn Fein’s figures.”
“This is actual theft live on television! She is actually stealing the government’s money to give to rich people!” the Taoiseach gasped.
“Ah, but we will give people a choice Mary Lou. No one will get more than €2000 of a rebate. That’ll be capped no matter how rich you are. But we will post every taxpayer a form allowing them to refuse the payment before they get it and direct it back to the state to spend on public services. Everybody gets to be a mini-Minister for Finance for the day. And it’ll finally answer the question: do Irish people actually want their taxes cut? We will have a tangible answer one way or the other. Maybe a majority of taxpayers will agree with you and send the money back?”
“And what about the people who don’t pay any tax at all? What do they get from this?” The Taoiseach asked.
“There it is: you’re asking me what tax cut people who don’t pay any income tax will get? There it is right there. You’ve defined the difference between us right there.”
Over two million people watched the debate, and the polls showed a clear 50/50 split as to who had won. As polling day approached both Sinn Fein and the New Democrats gained, both bumping over the 40% line as support for all other parties collapsed.
The Guardian announced it was a battle between democracy and fascism. A number of Irish Times columnists announced they would be moving to Melenchon’s France if the NDP entered government.
“At least collect your rebate on the way out! It’s your money after all. ” Hennessy tweeted on hearing the news.
The exit poll put SF and the NDP at a statistical tie of 42% each, with the number crunchers in the studio pointing out that the low first preferences for the small parties meant that many may end up as de facto sweeper candidates for the two big parties.
“Irish politics is going Australian!” one tweeted.
As the results started to come in a number of patterns emerged quickly from the exit poll. Sinn Fein’s vote was up modestly but notably in many wealthy and fashionable areas of Dublin, given rise to the old cry of “Tiocfaidh ar lá-di-da!”.
But the big item of note was the substantial New Democrat vote in working class areas with high employment. The number crunchers broke it down.
“This is our Green Wall affect. We saw this with Thatcher, Reagan, Trump, Johnson, small working class sole traders, foremen in yards doing overtime, plumbers, electricians, plasterers, the people who bought their council homes off Mrs Thatcher and have a beef with their neighbor next door not going to work. They’ve voted for Mrs Hennessy. This is the revenge of Breakfast Roll Man.”
Both SF and the NDP had made sure to run enough candidates to soak up transfers, and it was working like a charm as count after count eliminated the minor parties, now including FF and FG. As they were wiped out left transfers elected SF, and FG/FF votes put NDP candidates over.
By Sunday afternoon the NDP inched ahead, tantalizingly close to an overall majority. The image of the night was of Labour’s leader and sole TD looking shell shocked under an “Ivana for Taoiseach!” poster some mischievous wag had sneakily placed.
As pol corrs got giddy with excitement with the details of government formation the news came out that Hennessey was meeting with the two Independents. Then came the shocker: the two remaining FG deputies announced they were defecting to the NDP. FG became the third party to lose parliamentary representation that night.
Outside SF supporters loudly cheered and announced that as Sinn Fein was in government and had gained seats, it meant they had won the election, and that Hennessy was trying to steal the election.
#StopAnGhoid started to trend…
|Irish general election 2029|
(To be continued, depending on public demand…)
1000 points to who can identify the man in the picture.