Can we hear the awkward movements of a ménage à trois between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party shuffling hesitantly into view? Given yesterday’s Red C poll in the Business Post this may well be the last opportunity for Micheál Martin to consummate his desire to become Taoiseach as his party continues to nosedive in popularity. Meanwhile Leo Varadkar, with the Blueshirts riding high in the polls, might well hope for a more onanist approach if the circumstances permit a second 2020 general election in the autumn or winter. As for Eamon Ryan, one could never accuse him of lacking in political promiscuity and his passion to be the meat in the FG and FF sandwich is truly something to behold, even if many of his more left-wing followers are less than sanguine about the prospects of joining a centre-right thruple.
According to the Red C survey held 23rd-29th April, and compared to the last poll in March and with a presumed margin of error of 3% or so, the parties currently stand at:
- Fine Gael 35% (+1%)
- Sinn Fein 27% (-1%)
- Fianna Fáil 14% (-4%)
- Independents 8% (+3%)
- The Green Party 6% (+1%)
- Labour 3% (NC%)
- Social Democrats 3% (NC%)
- Solidarity-PBP 2% (NC%)
- Aontú 1% (-1%)
- Renua 1% (+1%)
So the Fine Gael caretaker government is enjoying a pandemic bounce, not entirely undeserved, while Mary Lou McDonald’s party is continuing to benefit from her perceived position as the de facto leader of the Opposition in Dáil Éireann. Fianna Fáil on the other hand is suffering from a lack of role or indeed visibility during the Covid-19 crisis.
Some have suggested that the lower profile by FF is not just an effect of the current situation, with the press focusing on the actions of those in power and the public services, but also an unwillingness of Martin and company to be associated too closely in the public eye with the State’s reaction to the coronavirus emergency in case it all goes horribly wrong. This has been coupled in FF thinking with the need to avoid too much criticism of the Government on the basis of Green Jersey togetherness and keeping a potential coalition partner sweet.
The problem with these positions is that the Soldiers of Destiny have largely disappeared into the cracks between both. So as long as the authorities continue to enjoy more successes than failures FG will continue to take the credit. And so long as there are some failures, notably on the issue of viral outbreaks in carehomes, SF will continue to take the credit for highlighting them.
No amount of FF-friendly journalists and commentators acting as apologists or eulogists for Micheál Martin are going to make up for the fact that in many ways he is simply a holdover politician from a previous era of politics. Even if the Cork TD does achieve his primary objective and becomes Taoiseach it will simply be high office for the sake of high office. Like the barking dog that chases the car and is unsure what to do when he finally catches up with it, I suspect Martin will have much the same reaction in government. Which will leave us with a new coalition regime not that different from the one we have now, beyond some better optics and less tolerance of criticism.
As a final note, talking of “fake news”, sorta kinda, here are two reports from the Irish press discussing the Red C polling figures. The first from Joe.ie:
Sinn Féin, on the other hand, have lost another percentage point, and now sit at 27% — which also marks a significant drop compared to their #GE2020 performance.
Sinn Féin took 24.5% of first preference votes in the February general election. Since voting intentions in Irish polling is normally compared with first preference votes that claim is straight-up untrue. Meanwhile in the Oirish Sun newspaper we are told this about the new polling figures:
Sinn Fein have received 22 per cent of the vote, sitting comfortably in the same spot in the poll as they had the previous poll.
The Red C poll gave Sinn Féin 27% not 22% which was a 1% drop from the previous poll in March.