Fine Gael’s fortunes rise

The first poll since Ahern’s muting of a May/June 2007 election doesn’t make nice reading for Fianna Fail. The latest Irish Times poll shows a shift in support to Fine Gael’s benefit and combined FG/Labour support enough to make a government possible. The rest of the parties have little or no change. Sinn Fein’s glass ceiling of support remains and Gerry Adams approval ratings still show no signs of recovery to pre-McCartney/Northern Bank highs. Support for independents is sufficient to make the stated goal of some Independent TD’s to endorse candidates and form a grouping in the next Dail credible too.

  • Garibaldy


    The spelling on that headline is seriously wrong.

  • November Rain

    Its Fine Gael.

  • fair_deal

    Fixed. Apologies.

  • CS Parnell

    Actually, some of us think the original headline had a point.

    Still, Vote Labour. Of the two civil war parties one has made a stuttering attempt to move to the left while the other is a club for gobshites.

  • Stephen Copeland

    CS Parnell,

    Still, Vote Labour …

    Um, why exactly? Don’t be fooled by the name – it is not a socialist, or even a left-wing, party. Some of their people aand policies would even make the PDs look liberal.

    The best thing to recommend is that people wait and see who is standing in their constituency, and then decide. You might be lucky enough to get a Joe Higgins, or a Finian McGrath, or even a Marian Harkin. I guess that in 2007 there will be an even wider choice of un-aligned.

  • Garibaldy

    There is no doubt that the Irish Labour Party cannot credibly claim to be a serious socialist party, but then what member of the Socialist International can?

    As for Stephen’s point, the problem with Joe Higgins in particular is that his Trytskyist attitude makes his voice in the Dáil useless. Before the last election, when the government had less control fo the dáil, he could have wrung some social reforms out of the government in return for neutrality in any confidence vote. He might therefore have made a real difference to the lives of ordinary working people, but missed the chance. The problem with the indepenent coalition or whatever it will be called will be different, but it will be equally unable to make an impact due to the inevitably different agendas they will pursue, assuming they can hold or expand on their seats. As for PSF, their performance has been pathetic, and they are populists of the FF variety.

    The truth is the south has had no effective left alternative since de Rossa, Rabitte et al left The Workers’ Party in 1992. None of the parties in the Dáil has a vision sufficiently distinctive, or an attitude, that can make a change. I remain with Stephen though in thinking that voting should be determined by local circumstances. If circumstances fall right, John Halligan might give The Workers’ Party a seat in Waterford, which would be a useful first step in restoring a credible left in the dáil.

  • would even make the PDs look liberal.
    The PD are liberal.
    Remember they are the party bringing in civil partnership, call for church out of schools, allowed giving the pill to under 16’s, reforming the libal laws, as far as I know the only party with a homosexual canidate.

    Don’t let the anti-McDowellites fool you. If any party can claim the liberal title it is probably the pd’s. (Greens have a claim too but they have never been in power)

    Fine Gael are the most conservative and Labour want to put them in power says something about Labour I think

  • andy

    You’re right on PSF, but really the Workers Party – credible?
    North Korea, printing presses, yacht ownership.. and that’s before discussing their issues on the North

  • CS Parnell

    Joe Higgins? I want to vote for a candidate with a brain.

  • Mayoman

    Simon-selective use of what the PDs stand for to present them as ‘liberal’. A rabidly racist approach to immigrants and blatantly Thatcherite approach to the problems of jails and the health sector definitely bar this marginal right-wing party from being called liberal. PS. You don’t have to be an anti-McDowellite like me to dislike the PDs. Thankfully 97%+ of the electorate do too.

  • Garibaldy


    The point I was making was that there has been no party in the Dáil with a sufficiently distinctive vision of Irish society to make it an effective challenge to the status quo since the defection of six of The Workers’ Party TDs in 1992. Is this really a point for dispute? Where is the challenge to the consensus coming from now? As you say, not PSF, nor the Greens, nor the independents. I’ve already outlined why Higgins can never form one, and in addition his vote is emphatically not a vote for a Trotskyist government, but a personal one based on his prominence over the bin and water charges. His organisation remains miniscule throughout the island, and cannot offer an alternative.

    On the other issues you raise, support for the DPRK is offered as it is encircled and threatened by a tenth of the hyperpower’s nuclear arsenal, and the US frustrated efforts by Japan and China to provide more relief during the famine for political motives. South Korea has said that it doesn’t believe the DPRK is printing superdollars, according to a story I saw on the BBC website perhaps two months ago. The US agenda on the DPRK is motivated by ideology and aggression, something shown up in the tensions between it, Japan and S Korea in the peace talks.
    I’ve never heard anything about a yacht.

    On the north, well it seems to me that a good deal of opinion north and especially south is now very close to WP policy. The WP said 40 years ago that unity had to be achieved through persuasion, it first suggested removing articles 2 and 3, has long supported devolved government, a bill of rights, integrated education etc, and government and community action against sectarianism. Its position on divorce etc is also now commonplace in the south. Quite a lot of its rhetoric has now entered the mainstream north and south. The WP’s policy on the north is a problem only in the north, where around 90% of voters, and higher west of the Bann, vote for parties that belong to either sectarian bloc.

    My point was that The Workers’ Party has provided an effective left challenge to the status quo in the south in the past. I don’t see anyone that has provided it since, or who looks capable of doing it. I was suggesting that a WP TD could have the potential to provide some vision and leadership for the Irish left again, in any coalition of independents or the broad left.

  • A rabidly racist approach to immigrants
    The Citiizenship referendum was bringing Ireland in line with Europe (Which Europe was pushing for) and puting into law previous Supmere Court judgements.

    However Pat Rabbitee’s “40 million poles you know” comment was quiet rabid.

    As for thatcherite health policy. About 20% of beds in the public hospidels are used by the Private sector, which does not pay rent, nurse’s wages, cleaners wages,catering wages etc the PD’s want to remove the private sector from these beds and convert them to public beds. Now that is hardly thatcherite.

    As for Prisons considering what Fine Gael are going to do with the help of Labour. Makes PD’s look very Liberal in comparrison.

  • George

    I’m normally not one to defend McDowell but can you please outline his rabidly racist approach?

    Before you start, may I remind you that Fine Gael and FF campaigned for a Yes vote in the 2004 citizenship referendum. (By the way, this referendum, which I was against, can only be considered racist if you consider all the other EU countries to be racist as it brought Irish citizenship law into line with theirs).

    Personally, I think Labour’s Rabitte is much more rabid when it comes to immigrants.

    I seem to recall McDowell standing firm on keeping the borders open for our Eastern European brothers and sisters earlier this year when Rabitte was ranting about 40 million Poles swamping little Ireland.

    I seem to recall it was Rabitte and a load of trade union bozos who were disgracefully playing the race card in the Irish Ferries dispute.

    Then of course we have Fine Gael’s Dr. Bill Tormey not last week calling for immigrants to undergo compulsory health screening.

    Fine Gael haven’t endorsed his view but maybe Tormey got the idea from former party leader Michael Noonan, who launched a media campaign with that very message in the 2002 Dail election, just two months after signing an anti-racism pledge.

    McDowell’s a saint compared to that lot.

  • Mayoman

    Why I think McDowell is a racist?. I heard him on RTE Q&A respond to legitimate questions on the deportation of a mother and children to her native country with: she was Nigerian, 95% of Nigerians are here illegally, therefore she must be here illegally, therefore she should go. At no point were the points made by people in the audience, regarding genital mutilation and return to a universally-acclaimed ‘unsafe country’, were answered. The specific problem of a specific woman was aired and his response was in terms of her nationality and nationality only. That is racist. I’m sure you can get the transcript from RTE. It was the most racists thing I ever heard on television.

    Don’t get me started on THAT referendum. It remains a stain of this nations character and just copper-fastened the view of the world that we are currenlty a racist nation. Even the leader of the National Front loved us for it. What an honour!

  • andy

    thanks for a thoughtful response.
    I actually take your main point about the lack of a consistent and powerful left group in the dail since the time you mentioned.

    Its just that frankly i don’t like the WP. No offence.

    North Korea is a brutal repressive dictatorship.
    I accept what you say about US intentions but it doesn’t change that fact.

    The printing press reference was to the plates found in WP HQ in the late 80s and early 90s, but could have also refered to the substantial evidence pointing in the direction of a certain Mr Garland’s distribution of super dollars.

    The yacht reference was to a WP TD who owned a yacht, a wee bit beorgois for an avowedly socialist party I thought. Can’t remember his name so I will understand you not taking my word for this. I remember it being mentioned in a dail debate at one point in the early 90s.

    On the North – the Offical movement has got to get some credit for realising that the “armed struggle” was going to fail. Unfortunately their consistent attempts to paint the Nationalist side of the conflict purely in terms of sectarianism takes a hell of a lot away from that. Calling the RUC “the best community police force in the world” was pretty poor as well, coming from a revolutionary socialist. (I’m not saying socialists should be provo republicans btw)

    I amdit these points are slightly tangential to your main argument though – so please don’t think I was having a go.


  • George

    if you could get the exact quote, I’ll be able to form an opinion. Otherwise, I only have your interpretation of what he said.

    He might also have said she could go through the process like everyone else. Naturally, she would want to hope she doesn’t get one particular Commissioner, who so far has a 100% record of not granting asylum. In all his time, he never met one person deserving of it.

    I asked you if you believe all EU countries are racist? If you do, fair enough but I don’t think you can single out McDowell as if he is somehow worse than anyone else.

    On asylum, this is now one of the areas under EC Treaty so Ireland is obliged to follow EC rulings, directives and regulations on the matter. The Common Asylum System is due to be in place by 2010.

    I don’t recall any of the major Irish parties complaining about that one. Of course not. None of the Irish media either when this Fortress Europe was given the okay a decade ago. The third-land rule introduced then inevitably led to asylum-seekers being passed around the EU. We als had the Chen case and the citizenship referendum.

    The situation with asylum is changing by the day and McDowell has nothing to do with it.

    We already have the Dublin Regulation, which contains clear rules about the Member State responsible for assessing an application for asylum is already in place.

    The Reception Conditions Directive has been agreed as has the Qualification Directive, which contains a clear set of criteria for qualifying for refugee status.

    Whether it is true or not, a Nigerian who fails to meet the criteria is on the night flight to Lagos.

    McDowell is the monkey. Raise your eyes and have a look at the organ grinder.

  • Garibaldy


    A bit of debate is what it’s all about. I didn’t think you were having a go. We all have our opinions on various parties.

    The plates you refer to were found in the early 80s I think, and were blamed on one individual. As for the yacht. It’s certainly possible. At least one ex-WP TD is now a judge, and some of them may have made a lot of money from the law or other careers. Certainly, they were accused of stopping giving the agreed proportion of their TD wages to the WP.

    I think the point about the North was that both unionism and nationalism sought to represnt religious groups, which is an anti-socialist position, and a betrayal of Tone. The point about the violence was that regardless of intention it fomented sectarianism and division, and as well as resulting in the deaths of innocent workers, put a united Ireland further away than ever. This explains the position of on the RUC, the point being that the sectarian violence had to end as soon as possible for progress to be made.

    There is a big question for the left in the south. There is no longer a powerful organisation representing the socialist viewpoint in the trade unions, the Dáil, and in wider society in a coherent and determined fashion. Such a voice must be re-established. Cooperation between the various groups is important, particularly at this stage, but an ineffective left may prove a serious hindrance. In that sense, the left’s major problem may well be PSF and the Greens.



  • Crataegus


    In that sense, the left’s major problem may well be PSF and the Greens.

    I wouldn’t consider PSF as being socialist or particularly left wing. Opportunists yes socialists no. As for Comhaontas Glas it has always struck me as being to somewhere on the right of the European Greens. They are environmental monetarists that go on about furry animals. By the way the Greens have been given a real present by Mr. Blair, I would expect all sort of protests about the nuclear issue.

    With regards the Poll bad news for the government and it appears that there is a trend.

  • Garibaldy


    I agree entirely. The point is that they are eating up a vote that the left should be getting instead. They are an impedient to the progress of socialist politics for the very reasons you outline. I agree on the Blair thing.

    It seems that FF is taking a dip for sure, and the PDs maybe a bigger one, but it remains to be seen how that pans out. I’d be very surprised if FF weren’t easily the biggest party. The question is which party will ally with them. There’s a good chance it will be a supposedly left party.
    Now the provos have decommissioned, there’s nothing to stop them. In many senses a return to those who helped them get up and running seems very likely.

  • Crataegus


    In a perverse sort of way I would love to see a FF SF government. I would sit back and enjoy. As in other threads my money would still be on a FF Labour government.

    With regards a credible party of the left there is a need north and south.

  • Brian Boru

    I don’t think it will be quite this bad for FF in the next election. It comes after a good Ard Fheis for FG, a Prime Time Investigates castigation of problems in A+E (in some hospitals), and a rail-strike. After Pat Rabbitte’s first Ard Fheis Labour rose to 22% and briefly overtook FG but since then have fallen well behind.

    I oppose the Rainbow because they are too liberal on immigration and asylum. Apparently from media sources Labour TDs are supporting the hunger-strikers demands, along with the Greens and SF. If we cave in on this it will happen again and again and again. Regarding FG, they are calling for all immigrants here for 3 years to get General Election votes. While migrants are 10% of the population (at least), their age-group would make them at least 20% of the electorate. Allowing this would make it far harder to pass tough immigration policies in the Dail.

    I think the key to winning another term would be for FF and PD’s to run on an immigration-control ticket, portraying the Opposition as a soft-touch. The PC-brigade in those parties may block this though.

  • veronica

    wow – poll is pretty bad for Sinn Féin.
    stable at 8%-9% over numerous polls now – in fact the SF vote has fallen since decomissioning after stabilizing and solidifying following northern bank/mccartney.

    Gone are the 14 seat predictions I presume. The narrative of the ‘rise of sinn fein’ is empirically wrong now. Will that make things harder internaly for the leadership I wonder?

  • Brian Boru

    Veronica I don’t know if you are right on SF predictions. It would depend on how spread out the 8-9% was. The PD’s got only 4% in 2002 but won 8 seats. SF got 6.5% and got 5 seats. Admittedly this was in part because of FG transfers to the PDs on the back of the latter promising to act as a watchdog on FF, but I still say its very much up in their air what’s gonna happen.

    On 8%, they could potentially win 13 seats on the day. But of course, polls in 2002 also had them on 8% and they only got 6.5%, largely because their supporters are largely in the 25-35 age-group least likely to turn out.

    I think that if FF lose power, then SF will have played a very large part in that. The drop of FF from 41% to 31% has benefited SF more than any other party. FF needs to aim for these voters if it is to minimise the potential disaster next year. At most they might be able to realistically aim for a repeat of 1997-2002 when they led a minority Coalition propped up by former FF Independents.

  • There is no longer a powerful organisation representing the socialist viewpoint in the trade unions, the Dáil, and in wider society in a coherent and determined fashion. Such a voice must be re-established.

    Did you ever think that maybe the reason there is no strong socialist voice is because the electorate is to the right? that they do not want socialism?

  • Veronica

    Brian – how far we have come. When the best SF can hope for is to play a small role in toppling FF!

    Remember 97 when G.Adams asked SF voters in the south to back FF – (AFTER the Haughey revelations) because they were best on the national question.

    Just look at percentages – I once seriously thought that SF would be new-FF. At 9% they will be new-Workers Party.

    But to get back to my question – will this level of growth or stasis harm the leadership? The expectation was for FAR faster growth in the South.

  • Garibaldy


    you’re of course right to an extent about the electorate. But at the same time there is a relatively substantial and growing section of the electorate that rejects the status quo, and gives its adherence to people that claim to be radical. My problem is that this is not going to serious groups with an appropriate ideology and strategy, but is being wasted on parties that have no real alternative to offer.

  • Crataegus


    Interesting question, I myself would like to see how SF support holds up in adversity. There has always been an anticipation of gain and an over arching political objective North and South. If that vision starts to stall it could all get very interesting.

    With regards the leadership, time takes its toll on us all, and Gerry isn’t the asset he once was, but I don’t see any real alternative in the near future. Political damage is a strange thing, it builds incrementally, almost invisibly and then something happens to tip the balance and there is no putting it back. There is inertia to change in all political parties, no one wants to be openly disloyal, but it doesn’t mean that rumblings don’t start.

    I would agree with much of what Brian has said and believe SF will make a few gains and get say 9 seats, which will be enough to save face, but the momentum will have gone. If they don’t make gains it will have far reacting consequences to voter perception and internally there are bound to be questions asked, but who is there to replace Jerry?