McDowell predicts FF election success

Tánaiste Michael McDowell maintained last night that Fianna Fáil would win power at the next election and the only issue left…

Tánaiste Michael McDowell maintained last night that Fianna Fáil would win power at the next election and the only issue left to be decided by the people was which other party would share power with them.

"The closer we get to the election, the greater will be the focus on who will have enough seats to be Fianna Fáil's partners and on whom Fianna Fáil may wish to have as partners in government," said Mr McDowell.

He said that the election would concern the choice facing the people about who would partner Fianna Fáil. "The electorate will have it in their power to grant that to my party, the Progressive Democrats. They may grant it to Labour. They may grant it to the Greens. And they may grant it to Sinn Féin."

He said the one clear consequence of the current opinion polls was that a Fine Gael-led government was becoming a mathematical impossibility.

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"Leading Fine Gael strategists may predict massive seat wins for Fine Gael. They can even predict an overall majority for Fine Gael at the next election for all I care. But nothing that they have to say can be as eloquent as the decision of Gay Mitchell TD not to contest the next general election.

"Gay Mitchell's decision is fraught with foreboding for Fine Gael. Here is an experienced, capable party representative in good standing who would have a claim on a senior ministry were Fine Gael about to enter government. He has opted instead to stay in Brussels. Better to be a small fish in a big pond than a big fish in no pond," said the Tánaiste.

He said Fine Gael may try and take comfort from Maireád McGuinness returning from Brussels to contest a Dáil election, but such a decision would be taken more in the hope of succeeding Enda Kenny as party leader than of serving him as a minister.

Mr McDowell was speaking in Dublin at the launch of a book, called The Soul of Ireland, edited by Joe Mulholland, which arose from contributions to this year's Magill Summer School

Mr McDowell said that in the 1997 general election, the people had to choose between a Fine Gael-led government and a Fianna Fáil-led government and in the 2002 general election, the people had to choose between whether Fianna Fáil should govern on their own or whether they should govern with coalition partners. "But if Fianna Fáil maintain or grow their current levels of support, then in the 2007 general election the choice which the people will have to make will be which party can govern with Fianna Fáil." he said.

Mr McDowell said the essential characteristic of the alternative of Fine Gael and Labour was mediocrity. "Where either Fine Gael or Labour go it alone the result is usually something the other party will not wear. At best we are offered the paralysis of handcuffed mediocrity. At worst we are offered questionable proposals likely to be vetoed by the other party.

"This is the core problem of the Rainbow combination. And this is what probably lies behind voters' recent turning away from the Rainbow parties. And, unfortunately for the Rainbow parties, this is a central problem which they cannot easily avoid or solve or fix," he said.