One weekend, two polls, and the results look good for both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. However things are not so rosy for Fine Gael and are positively awful for Labour.
“Fine Gael 28% (no change)
Fianna Fáil 21% (+1)
Ind/Other 21% (no change)
Sinn Fein 19% (+2)
Labour 11% (-3)”
Ouch. Meanwhile the “Oirish” edition of the Sunday Times has the results of its Behaviour & Attitudes poll:
“Fine Gael 26% (-4)
Fianna Fáil 24% (+2)
Sinn Féin 19% (+5)
Ind/Other 18% (-1)
Labour 11% (-1)
Green 3% (no change)”
That has gotta hurt. Political Reform crunches the numbers and comes up with the following seats based on the Red-C poll:
“Fine Gael 56
Fianna Fail 38
Sinn Fein 25
Independents, Green Party, United Left Alliance and Others 24
Taking the Behaviour & Attitudes results the extrapolations yield:
“Fine Gael 51
Fianna Fail 42
Sinn Fein 26
Independents, Green Party, United Left Alliance and Others 24
Based on this polling (and the ongoing trends) I think several members of the present FG-Lab coalition will be breathing sighs of relief that the next general election is some way off. I certainly wouldn’t like to guesstimate the make-up of any future government with surveys like this. Could we end up with a politically fractured Dáil that has more than a passing resemblance to the Israeli Knesset? And would that be good or bad for Ireland’s democracy?
As others have pointed out Sinn Féin seems to be hollowing out Labour’s “working class” vote while scooping up quite a few former Fine Gael voters too (though the latter should probably be regarded in most cases as ex-Fianna Fáil and some at least will continue their electoral journey back to the one-time Republican Party). Oft-made media predictions that the SF vote would fall back to pre-2011 general election levels (in and around 9%) seem more and more like wish-fulfilment than political analysis. The Sinn Féin vote has bobbed up and down in the 14% to 20% range for some time now and there it is likely to remain for the foreseeable future (and if it does change significantly the direction of movement seems likely to be upward not downward, bar some unforeseen catastrophe).
Fianna Fáil must also be be quite satisfied with its rising polling, not to mention expressing a fair degree of wonder at how the hell it got away with not paying the ultimate price for being part of the disaster that enveloped this nation in 2009/2010. The switch from a near electoral meltdown to a respectable 20%+ poll proves the party strategy of simply hanging on until people’s memories faded, and the Fine Oibre coalition of FG and Labour created plenty of unpleasant new ones, has paid off. Ironically FF took a leaf out of the Sinn Féin playbook – in times of trouble keep your head down, keep your nose clean, mumble a few inoffensive platitudes, and simply wait until the trouble blows over. As it always does.
On the other hand Fine Gael must be starting to worry with the old rival coming within a hair’s breadth of out-polling it though there is certainly no sign of a panic yet. People may express dissatisfaction in mid-term surveys but come election day?
As for the minnows of the coalition, the Labour Party (emphasis on the “parrrrty!”)? Well that leadership putsch by former WP/DL apparatchiks isn’t looking so great now, is it?
Though there is some sort of good news for Labour as the United Left Alliance (ULA) enters true meltdown mode with the Socialist Party bidding it a not so fond adieu. What is left now of the ULA is pretty much a rag-bag of independent Left activists, effective and (more often) ineffective, not to mention the Socialist Workers Party – sorry, People Before Profit (ahem…). At a time when Ireland needs a genuine left-of-centre voice on politics, economics and society the further reaches of the Left seem to be spending as much time campaigning against each other as against the reinvigorated phantasm of anglo-american capitalism. Which of course suits Labour. Not to mention Sinn Féin.
Any bets on SF emerging as the dominant left-of-centre party in Ireland over the next decade?
Meanwhile in some real news, the type of news that some of the parties above should be screaming from the rooftops, the always excellent NAMA Wine Lake reports that:
“Not content with receiving a bailout of €21bn – without which, the bank would be utterly bust – not content with shoveling €1.1bn into its pension fund last August 2012 – without which, AIB would be in the same position as myriad pension schemes around the country and have to renege on pension benefits – and not content with giving redundant staff five weeks pay per year of service - when staff at Vita Cortex had to fight tooth and nail to get 2.9 weeks, this afternoon we learn via the BBC in Northern Ireland that several AIB staff are to receive GBP 2m (€2.3m) of bonuses and contract-increment payments.”
Nice work if you can get it.
Talking of which David Ford, leader of the liberal Unionists of the Alliance Party and the Justice Minister in the regional administration in the north-east of the country, is making a play for some of the SDLP’s voters. With anti-democracy protests from the militant extreme of the British Unionist minority ongoing the future of the Alliance Party in all those nominally Unionist constituencies with significant Roman Catholic or small “n” Nationalist voting blocs is looking increasingly in doubt. Naomi Long is probably on her way out in East Belfast as far as the Westminster seat is concerned and several Alliance MLAs look to be in trouble too. So to Ford’s forlorn hope of attracting a few disaffected SDLP voters to make up the numbers. However, in typically schizophrenic Alliance mode the party is attracting more avowedly Unionist politicians and activists than ever before with former UUP and Tory types drifting into the fold.
Which hardly adds to its attractiveness for Nationalist voters. Even the palest of pale green.
Of course it could be worse. Here is Willie Frazer, the very public face of the anti-democracy demonstrations, in Q&A with James Bennett at the University Times:
“Q: There is a video of you on YouTube saying that protests over the flag will always be peaceful “except when certain elements who are working for the British government get in and create violence.”
A: Well if I said it that way I probably meant that whenever people attack peaceful protesters they will defend themselves. I was talking about elements within the republican movement… but also elements within the police force. Not every police officer though, because 99% of them are good.
Q: Are you saying that members of the PSNI have purposefully incited violence?
A: Yes. I’ve seen it myself.
Q: How have they done that?
A: Well, for example, if you hit a woman who is standing on the street who is seventy years of age… If you hit her with a baton…
Q: Is this recently?
A: Yes, in the last few weeks. That’s only one. I’ve seen a lot of women being beaten to the ground.
Q: By police officers?
A: By police officers.
Q: Are you saying that the Irish government knew about 110 murders?
A: Yes… There were people… involved. Just to give you an example… We know for a fact, and it is in Irish government documents, that the Irish government authorised the Irish army to give 500 weapons out of the army barracks in Dublin in 1972 to the IRA around the border. We want to know why that was allowed to happen. That’s not hearsay; that is fact. If he can come down here and call up an inquiry into Pat Finucane, we want an answer to that. We want to why they did not arrest the men who hijacked the minibus in the Kingsmill massacre, when they knew the name of the men involved.
Q: The IRA were involved with putting horsemeat into beef products?
Q: Why would they do that?
To make money. It’s the same with cows that have to be sold within a certain number of months after they’re born. Basically old fat cows that are 30 months old have been put into the food chain because the republicans have the means of getting it in. And a blind eye has been turned to it. This is the kind of thing that’s going on that we’re sick of… There is a blind eye being turned to so much fraud so that they don’t upset the peace process. That is what is creating the problems here.”