Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
Two weeks ago I queried the possibility of the next incarnation of An Dáil becoming more like the Israeli Knesset: a host of independents, small parties and shifting political alliances with a handful of big fish around which other groups coalesced. Following the latest Irish Times / Ipsos MRBI poll that certainly looks more likely:
“Fianna Fáil 26% (+5%)
Fine Gael 25% (-6%)
Sinn Féin 18% (-2%)
Labour 10% (-2%)
Green Party 1% (-1%)
ULA/Independents/Others 20% (+6%)”
However two important facts must be borne in mind about the survey. Firstly it comes with a significant margin of error of +/-3%, a statistical figure many commentators and journalists simply choose to overlook (or don’t understand). Secondly the poll was taken before the crucial (and divisive) debates and deal in Dáil Éireann on the so-called “promissory note” which will certainly effect any future polling (the Red C / Business Post poll is some two weeks away, as of now). With those things noted it is clear that recent polling indicates an upward trend in Fianna Fáil’s support amongst the electorate with a corresponding fall in that of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.
The prolific Adrian Kavanagh at Political Reform has number-crunched the figures and come up with the following estimates for Dáil seats:
“Fianna Fáil = 54
Fine Gael = 45
Sinn Féin = 24
Labour = 13
Green Party = 0
ULA/Independents/Others = 22″
More than ever it seems clear that Fine Gael’s phenomenal general election results were in part dependent on disaffected FF voters some of whom also registered a preference for Labour. With Fine Gael effectively following the same socio-economic polices as the previous coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Greens, albeit without the deft populist touch of FF, many former FF voters are now returning to the fold. Fine Gael it seems is now being punished by the electorate for pushing through the very same austerity measures favoured by Fianna Fáil. Ah, the fickleness of the Irish voter!
But one must hand it to FF. As I pointed out before, they have adopted the previous post-atrocity tactics of Sinn Féin: go low, keep your core happy, issue a few platitudes or inoffensive phrases and wait for the heat to die down. And die down it did. While some Irish voters may never forgive Fianna Fáil for the mismanagement and corruption of recent decades (in and out of office) others are more forgiving and quite prepared to shake hands with the devil they know. How many cheques and donations will be flowing FF’s way over the next two or three years from the usual sources now that Fine Gael is in trouble? Its called hedging your bets. A little bit of largesse here, a little bit there.
How are Fianna Fáil’s recently dire party finances now, I wonder? That would be interesting to know and an indicator of where the “smart money” thinks its best hope for future influence lies.
So could the unthinkable happen? Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in coalition following the next general election? No. Those who believe such an alliance to be the likely outcome of voter fragmentation at the ballot box simply don’t understand the intensely factional nature of politics in Ireland. Or how institutions of any sort conduct or perceive themselves. No institution chooses to deliberately help its rivals; and when all is said and done FF and FG are rivals. And bitter ones at that. Each wishes to drown the other, not toss it a lifeline. Even at the risk of their own survival. If the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit/Socialist Workers Party couldn’t make the United Left Alliance work, let alone merge with each other, what chance of a united FG-FF coalition (or a Fianna Gael. Or would it be Fine Fáil?).
As for the smaller parties, Sinn Féin keeps bobbing along in the high teens, up to 20%, down to 15%. If the old rule of thumb of previous polls is true (the SF vote is always underestimated through voter reluctance to admit a preference) then the party should be content with 18%. However its mediocre performances of late (especially in the north of the country) should be a cause for worry. 18% is good but it should be better. The glass ceiling for Sinn Féin votes hasn’t been reached yet and that is largely through the party’s own inadequacies (and admittedly a resolutely hostile media establishment that runs the gamut from newspapers to television).
SF will remain possible partners for a future FF administration, either in coalition or through some procedural chicanery in Dáil Éireann. That still leaves the Labour Party who one suspects will be Fine Gael’s only hope of a coalition ally unless the much-prophesied PDs Mark II emerges from the shadowy wastes of Ireland’s political Right (with a few wayward Independents thrown into the mash). As it is Labour is on its continued downward spiral. The only question is when will the crew start bailing? Or do they intend to go down with the captain?
The Independents, the rump ULA and such flotsam and jetsam as rises to the surface of Irish politics, continue to see an improvement in their standing as far as the polls are concerned. Some are motivated by genuine social and economic concerns and beliefs (despite her recent troubles, and my own personal views, Claire Daly is still someone to watch – which goes some way to explain the media fascination with her). Others are a downright embarrassment. But where will a significant vote for various “Others” get us? A more diverse Dáil Éireann certainly but also a more fractured one too.
Meanwhile in the north-east of the country another poll, albeit a regional one this time (via Hoboroad’s Political Highway):
However several seasoned observers strike a note of caution in relation to the figures. Interesting but a bit unlikely seems to be the general impression. Of course the figures here are more telling of changing political demographics than any amount of voter surveys.
UPDATE 17.00: Talking of the “promissory note” Football Clichés has some pertinent thoughts while NAMA Winelake highlights the continued asset-stripping of the Irish nation. Also check out Tomás Ó Flatharta for his take on the recent polls.
After thee years of witnessing the abuse and manipulation of Irish democracy my own feelings on Ireland’s continuity state, the political establishment of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour, the parasitical and amoral business and media elites, and the self-serving bureaucracies of the EU, et al, are probably best summed up by the below. Our new national anthem?