Well, after a four month wait I'm finally blogging.
And why not, given the day that's in it.
Across the world, socialists and trade unionists will celebrate May Day, so fraternal greetings and solidarity to the left blogohemisphere on our day of celebration and rememberance.
Here at home, Election '07 is off to an unwieldy, odd start. Fianna Fáil's launch was uncharacteristically low-key, unimpressive and no doubt in fear of the Tribunals. Ahern's dawn raid on the Áras now seems to have been a pre-emptive strike on the Mahon tribunal where yet more dodgy dossiers were to be uncovered.
It's being billed as two competing blocs - FF/PD and FG/Labour - by all and sundry. Such a dichotomy suits three of the four parties. But for Labour, playing second fiddle to the Blueshirts in the campaign means being pushed to the sides on so many debates. Such is the outcome of the electoral arrangement and such will be the downfall of Labour candidates across Ireland who fail to take, hold or regain a seat having being squeezed by expensive and seemingly more salient and relevant FG rivals.
It's not all bad news of course. Labour has an excellent range of candidates and an analysis based on the various Internet chatter and previous results shows good seat chances in some 26 constituencies - and a strong chance of two seats each in a further two. But with a core base of just 7% and an average of 9-13% on opinion polls, 30 seats is not likely.
Overall, though, I'm more positive than I have been previously about individual candidates despite the national picture. For fun, more than anything, here are my predictions.
For me there are 4 categories of constituencies.
The first are the reasonably safe seats. Nothing is safe in PRSTV, particularly for the third party. But these are seats where Labour traditionally performs and where the TDs have a longstanding reputation and good track record.
For me, these are
Eamon Gilmore (Dun Laoghaire)
Ruairi Quinn (Dublin South East)
Pat Rabbitte (Dublin South-West)
Michael D Higgins (Galway West)
Emmet Stagg (Kildare North)
Willie Penrose (Longford Westmeath)
Jan O'Sullivan (Limk East)
Breeda Moynihan-Cronin (Kerry South)
Brendan Howlin (Wexford) and
Brian O'Shea (Waterford).
The next level down are tight constituencies where we can win or lose depending on a few hundred votes either way, and places where we are hoping for two seats;
I've come down on the Labour side in tight races in
Carlow-Kilkenny (Michael O'Brien)
Dublin Nth (Brendan Ryan)
Kerry Nth (Terry O'Brien)
Dublin West (Joan Burton)
Dublin Central (Joe Costello)
Tipperary South (Phil Prendergast)
Kildare South (Jack Wall)
Dublin North West (Roisin Shortall) and
Dublin Nth East (Tommy Broughan).
I've given us two seats in both
Dublin SC (Mary Upton & Eric Byrne) and
Wicklow (Liz McManus & Nicky Kelly).
Tight races I believe we'll just lose are in
Cork South Central (Ciarán Lynch)
Cork East (John Mulvihill and Seán Sherlock)
Cork North-Central (Kathleen Lynch)
Dublin Mid-West (Joanna Tuffy)
Dublin South (Aidan Culhane & Alex White)
Dublin North Central (Derek McDowell)
Meath East (Dominic Hannigan) and
Tipperary North (Kathleen Lynch).
The next Level down are candidates who are some way off but might squeeze in with a national swing ala Moosajee Bhamjee in 1992.
Only a significant swing towards us will give a chance to candidates like
Ged Nash (Louth)
Michael McCarthy (Cork South West)
Oisín Quinn (second candidate in Dún Laoghaire)
Martin Coughlan (Cork North West)
Brian Collins (Meath West) and
Jim McGarry (Sligo North Leitrim)
There are many candidates running who may not have a realistic chance of Dáil election, but it is vital they do run to maintain a Labour presence and build a foundation for Labour, particularly in the West.
Des Cullen (Cavan Monaghan)
Pascal Fitzgerald (Clare)
Siobhán McLaughlin (Donegal North East)
Seamus Rodgers (Donegal South West)
Colm Keaveney (Galway East)
Jim O'Brien & David Whelan (Laois-Offaly)
James Heffernan (Limerick West)
Harry Barrett (Mayo) and
Hugh Baxter (Roscommon South Leitrim)
That leaves us with 23 seats and 27 defeated candidates.
23 is not a cause for celebration. Given the unpopularity of the current Govt, 30 would have been a reasonable and achievable goal to build on. But the FG pact will tie us down in most of races above in which I've said we'll lose out; time and a lot of campaigning ahead will tell.