Current Affairs Politics

Voting Fianna Fáil – Like A Dog Returning To Its Vomit

Fianna Fáil, back from the dead ( (Photo: Séamas Ó Sionnaigh, Binn Éadair, Cúige Laighean, Éire, Meitheamh 2012)
Fianna Fáil, back from the dead ( (Photo: Séamas Ó Sionnaigh, Binn Éadair, Cúige Laighean, Éire, Meitheamh 2012)

Another weekend, another poll, this time a telephone survey of 1000 voters by Millward Brown on behalf of the Sunday Independent newspaper. I’m always wary of examining polls in newspapers that fail to provide a link to the hard data of the survey and this one is no different. We are relying on the journalists and editors to provide us with the substance of the poll free of any predefined spin. In the case of the “Sindo”, an agenda-driven right-wing newspaper which has traditionally curried favour with the two big political power blocks of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, that is something of a challenge.

However, for what its worth, here are the results of the telephone questionnaire:

“Fianna Fáil 27%

Fine Gael 25%

Sinn Féin 20%

Labour 13%

ULA 1%

Greens 1%

Others 14%”

The most obvious thing to note is the slow drift back to Fianna Fáil, which has now been played out across a number of different opinion polls and can no longer be simply dismissed as “snap-shots” of voter dissatisfaction or statistical blips (or as Jason Walsh so memorably puts it: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so an Irish voter returneth to his Fianna folly“). Though we continue to have a very volatile electorate with high levels of “don’t knows” or “undecideds” it is clear that FF has managed to stabilise its core vote (albeit at a historical low level) and is successfully building upon that.

On the other hand Fine Gael is rapidly shrinking back to its electoral inner heartlands. There is no good news in the survey for the party and quite a few TDs elected on narrow margins must be beginning to worry about their future prospects. Eventually such worries will be made known and sooner rather than later.

For Sinn Féin it is a case of no news is good news. While the party seems to be having trouble making or sustaining a 20%+ breakthrough in the polls it can be fairly confident that any drop in voter satisfaction is not going to be too significant for its percentages. For a political party that in the electoral lifetime of many its sitting TDs was normally in fifth or sixth place in the opinion polls to find itself a regular number three must be satisfying indeed. However the party’s position, though laudable, is still lower than it should be. The SF ceiling is arguably in and around 25%. While it is very hard to see how it could progress beyond that in the near to medium term it certainly should be questioning why it is failing to approach anywhere near that figure.

The core membership of the Labour Party (or those left after the WP/DL putsch) must be ruing the day they followed their executive-hungry leader into power. In effect all that Labour managed to achieve was to clear out an electoral space for Sinn Féin to grow (and for a while the ULA with it). It is debatable whether the party will get back that traditional or Labour-tending floating vote not to mention the many first-time voters who bypassed the Labour Party altogether and went straight to SF (both now and in the future).

The ULA will be similarly depressed with these results, as must be most activists on the non-Sinn Féin or non-Labour Left across Ireland. This is their time, if any time is, and they have simply failed to exploit it both in political and electoral terms. The ULA debacle, and all the animosity and bad blood surrounding it, will make for a hard sell with voters come the next general election. Increasingly parties of the further-left seem likely to be character-driven, one or two politicians popular with local constituents around whom a political party operates. It is all-but certain that the Socialist Party or the People Before Profit/Socialist Workers Party will never become major national parties in Ireland. They will remain local, parochial even, but with unfulfilled higher aspirations.

As for the Greens… I can’t even bear to bring myself to comment.

2 comments on “Voting Fianna Fáil – Like A Dog Returning To Its Vomit

  1. I have an opinion on Fianna Fail, not a positive one but an opinion nevertheless. They are long on rhetoric but short on action. Their actions are self serving, short term and the only vision they tend to have is a picture in their heads of themselves with a ministerial merc and a coterie of cronies at the Dail bar. They are parochial pirhannas.
    Martin is a good solid, low key leader. Exactly what they need at this time but he has some serious muppets and chancers below the radar.


    • Agree with all of the above except, perhaps, the view on Martin. He’s a chancer who has tried to wash himself clean of his up-to-his-neck-in-it involvement with the former FF-Green government that created this mess in the first place. He chastises Gerry Adams for dishonesty while pretending he was never in government before and is a “lilly-white” new face. Utter hypocrite.

      Did you see his latest words of wisdom in the Oirish Sun? Comparing SF’s involvement in local government to the political environment in Nazi Germany. A reprehensible abuse of history and language.

      Our democracy, our Republic, deserves better than the likes of him.

      Apologies for my anger. I speak as someone who comes from a Dublin “Fianna Fáil family” (albeit of the liberal left-wing) where the feeling of betrayal is felt all the keener. From the 1970s onwards its been nothing but downhill.


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