I wonder how it feels to be in the Leader’s Last Chance Saloon because that’s what it boils down to for Varadkar, Martin, McDonald and Howlin. Take Vlad, the tone deaf, for a start. He opens the campaign with those extraordinary remarks about the poor unfortunate gentleman who was injured during the removal of his tent by the Grand Canal. The last time I spoke to the Taoiseach I told him to be more empathetic. This was not the kind of thing I had in mind. I have already had Fine Gael supporters talking about Simon Coveney as a future leader. Not good at the start of a campaign. This is Leo’s first time in front of the people as party leader and Taoiseach. By my reckoning he is going to have to be damn good in those leader’s debates. For Micheal Martin this really is his last shot. His weakness, of course, is the fact that he was a Cabinet Minister during the crash. However, in fairness to him he has hauled Fianna Fail back from the brink, and in the slog back to the forefront of national politics he has acquired a ring of real sincerity about him. He is a formidable campaigner and a good debater. At the moment he is on the money. For Mary Lou this could also be her swansong. She has had two bad elections and bar the recent bye election, her cupboard looks rather stale and bare. More dangerously for her, she has several very competent figures breathing down her neck in the form of Pearse Doherty and Eoin O’Broin. Finally we come to Brendan Howlin. Do you know, I hope Labour does well. They have served this country honestly, sometimes under very difficult circumstances.
To me the really interesting thing about this election is going to be the performance of the Greens because at the moment I would put my money on a Fianna Fail Green coalition with the possible inclusion of the Labour Party. However, can the Greens put up a good ground game ? Slane was plastered with posters of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail candidates in jig time, with a few for Sinn Fein, but no sign of one for a Green.
It is early days but already you can see a difference of emphasis. Fine Gael claiming credit for a sound economy but they are on shaky ground on financial prudence. Fianna Fail prioritising Health and Housing and erasing their past. Labour – public housing on public land. Game on.