Inside Politics: Shortening telescopes. . . election ahoy

Renua bites back after Labour tells canvassers party is ‘right of Donald Trump’

The moment to call “Time, gentlemen, please!” on the 31st Dáil is fast approaching.

President Michael D Higgins is said to have cleared his diary and is busy preparing the Park for an influx of photographers and camera folk, who will arrive to capture the moment when Taoiseach asks Uachtarán to dissolve the lower house.

We expect the general election to take place on Friday, February 26th, despite some recent flirtation with the notion of a Thursday poll.

Apparently the idea of closing schools, which function as temporary polling stations, on the Thursday following the mid-term break the week before was just not a runner.


The latest output from the rumour mill is that Wednesday, rather than Tuesday, will be the day Enda Kenny calls the election.

The 32nd Dáil does not actually have to meet until 30 days after the election, although the Dáil-free interval was shorter than usual in 2011.

Some observers say it is hard to see “the first day of school” being put back until after St Patrick’s Day, however.

Incidentally, the Dáil schedule remains unchanged as of early this morning, with three full days of business mapped out, and the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 and Road Traffic Bill 2016 among the pieces of legislation listed for debate.

Meanwhile, the unabashed targeting by political parties of struggling groups they hope to appeal to ahead of the election continues.

Working parents are being wooed by all sides at the moment, with subsidised childcare featuring in the Fine Gael manifesto, as our lead story reports.

There was a wonderful moment at the Labour conference when a woman from Cork, thoroughly sick of talk about "hard working families", implored senior party figures to consider the plight of single people.

"Please imagine an Ireland where everyone isn't married. People have other lifestyles that don't involve crèches," she said.

Addressing Alan Kelly, who had majored on being married with two children, she said: "Alan, I hear you've got kids and good luck".

She’s fighting a losing battle, however.

Renua bites back with jibe about the “bearded brother”

Renua was not best pleased to learn, via The Irish Times on Saturday night, that it was described as being "to the right of Donald Trump" in Labour's guide for canvassers.

Deputy leader of the smaller party Billy Timmins has hit back sharply by returning to the controversy over the recent appointment of former Ictu leader David Begg as chairman designate of the Pensions Authority.

Mr Begg was scathingly described as the “bearded brother” by leading Independent Alliance TD Shane Ross, who led the criticism of the appointment.

Labour canvassers who gathered in Mullingar at the weekend said the prospect of Michael Lowry’s possible involvement in a new version of the current Coalition Government had been raised on the doorsteps of their supporters.

But so had the installation of Mr Begg on a State board without going through the public process, after Tánaiste Joan Burton availed of a clause in guidelines allowing Ministers to bypass normal channels.

Wicklow TD Mr Timmins hit back by saying: "Nothing captures the irrelevance of Labour more than its desperate attempt to compare Renua Ireland to an American politician".

Renua was prepared to be called right wing, “if tax cuts and a major child care credit for working people is right wing”, he said.

“We do have some difficulty in understanding how creating jobs for the unemployed is punishing them.

“There again the only jobs Labour create are for party cronies like David Begg.”

An on-form Mr Timmins continued: “This shadowy campaign of spin being paid for by the taxpayer reveals Labour’s increasingly desperate state.

“Their belated bribes to the voters resemble nothing more than an errant spouse who having forgotten their partner’s birthday buys a cheap bunch of flowers in a late night garage in the hope that they might get away with it.”

Do I detect the guiding hand of a political hack-turned-spin doctor (John Drennan) in the normally mild-mannered Mr Timmins’s comments?