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Electing an Opposition

General Election 2016 is officially underway, even if an official date has yet to be announced. Posters are going up in constituencies and the media are talking coalitions. Which parties will other parties do business with and even which independent TD will they do a deal with? What are their red line issues, which must be implemented over the lifetime of the next government? Largely few are willing to discuss the make-up of the opposition benches.

So far we can safely say that Labour will be lucky to retain 50% of their current number of TDs, Fine Gael will remain the largest party and will most likely need help from other parties, and from the media we get a frenzy of questions about what parties will make-up the next government.

Remember we are also voting for an opposition as well and unfortunately this gets sidelined by most of the media, indeed politicians get swept up with the idea of coalition.

2011 seems like yesterday to most voters. Labour were on the crest of a wave, Eamon Gilmore for Taoiseach was plastered around the country. Indeed, Labour became the second most popular party in the Dáil. Just think about that for a moment. For the first time in the history of The Labour Party it became the first party outside of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to become one of the two main political parties in the State. Remember the state was only 79 years old by 2011.

It seemed as if Ireland had moved past the civil war politics of the past, by voting either to the Right or Left of the political spectrum. This was indeed a voter’s revolution.

So you'd imagine the second largest party would be the party of opposition. Eamon Gilmore versus Enda Kenny, instead we got a warring left and Fianna Fáil as Leaders of the opposition.

I know your saying, are you seriously thinking that that Fianna Fáil lead the opposition over the last 5 years? They cannot even manage the proverbial piss up in a brewery.

But imagine an alternative 5 years, Eamon Gilmore across the room from Enda Kenny over the last 5 years. The 4-way TV debates would purely be a battle against Eamon and Enda, with Michéal and Gerry sideline characters.

But who'd have supported a FG government? Fianna Fáil would not have returned to power in such a situation, firstly they would not be welcomed by FG and secondly FF aren't stupid enough to be the junior partner in a coalition government, let’s face it they have great knowledge of the fate of junior coalition partners.

Could it have force a second general election? or would agreements be made between FG, some "like minded" independents, with support from FF for a FG minority government? After all, why wouldn't this work, particularly when Labour entered government they continually suggested it was for the good of the country.

FF as an opposition party could have suggested the same, and be more likely to get away with such a deception. Though as we can see FF are still struggling to gain in popularity. It’s unlikely that FF will increase or decrease their number of TDs in the next Dáil, this wouldn't change under such an agreement.

On the other hand, we now see the total decimation of The Labour Party.

So who will you vote to be leader of the opposition in the next Dáil, Michéal Martin or Gerry Adams? After all neither are likely to be, or want to be, Tánaiste.