There are few reliables in the otherwise unpredictable world of politics but one truism in Irish politics is that an incumbent govt always get a kicking in midterm local elections. The theory seems to be that, even in normal times, a govt does the necessarily nasty stuff in the first half of a term and then goes into appeasement and bribery mode the closer they get to the next General Election. The electorate know this too, and so they are programmed to 'send govt a message' by giving their councillors a good kicking thereby ensuring a couple of years of giveaway budgets before the GE.
That's in normal times. Well, we're not in Kansas anymore Toto and there are no cookies left to hand out.
The next LEs in 2014 would be only a maximum of 18-20 months away from the subsequent GE. That's if the govt wanted another winter election. Typically govts like to call GEs in summer time with long, bright evenings for canvassing and voters of a sunnier disposition generally. So most would seem to agree that the next GE will be Summer 2015. That is only 12 months from the LEs. Twelve months from when FG and Labour will, as explained above, get a good kicking from the electorate and lose a lot of council seats.
I don't think it's a stretch to say Sinn Féin and ULA-types will take a lot of Labour scalps. From FG's point of view, would there be a better time for a new party to overtake them on their Right flank than just 12 months before a GE following a LE kicking? As a result, the LE results will cause panic on the Labour and FG backbenches.
Both FG and Labour will lose Dáil seats next time out, even they know that. The historic numbers they reached in 2011 will not be replicated. So imagine you're a Labour or FG backbencher knowing this. Now imagine you've just seen your constituency colleagues in the LEs get trounced. 12 months and ticking..... Discipline among backbenchers will collapse as the panic sets in, the govt will then be seen as panicked and out of control as loose lips and media briefing against each other will become the order of the day. An inter-party media war will ensue as the parties try to win back their bases.
I think a better strategy for FG and especially Labour would be to go to the country early and coincide the GE with the LEs, having the GE in Summer 2014. Otherwise, they will allow a 12 month head of steam build up which will split the coalition and embolden their opponents.