All aboard for the Sinn Fein/PD roundabout?

One of the remarkable aspects of the Progressive Democrats under leadership of their controversial Minister of Justice, Michael McDowell is just how quiet things have gone for them since he took over last September – it’s almost reminiscent of what happened to the firebrand leftist Kinnock when he took over British Labour after Michael Foot. No time for barnstorming. A May election would leave a settlement of the dispute in the Heath Service a long way over the electoral horizon. Mairtin, who’s been lunching with TG4 and it’s talking head crew, clearly hopes so. And he thinks that Sinn Fein are currently being underestimated. As Noel Whelan noted in the Irish Times last Saturday, it is easy for Dublin based journalists and commenters to get blindsided (subs needed). He quotes Garrett FitzGerald:

In an address to the Patrick McGill Summer School in Donegal in July 2004, Garret FitzGerald, emphasising that he was no longer actively engaged with the Fine Gael party, revealed that he had been surprised at how well it had done in that June’s local elections. He attributed his surprise, in part, to the fact that national media no longer seemed to cover politics outside the media and government beltway of Dublin 2 and 4, to the extent he felt it once had. As a consumer of political coverage at national level, albeit a relatively astute one, he felt he had as a result been left blind-sided about the extent of the party’s improvement around the country since its disastrous 2002 election.

It’s a point worth bearing in mind as we head into the last, intensive, phase of this election contest. There are real limitations on the capacity to which any of us involved in covering or assessing the forthcoming contest at national level can identify the true significance of happenings in individual constituencies. In 2002, much of the national media failed to recognise the significance of the relatively rapid rise of some of the new Independent candidates, whose support surged on the back of concerns about hospitals or other local issues.

Bertiegate may (or may not) be over, but a certain dynamic may still play a role in chipping votes away and in that direction. And national polls may have little to say about the final result of what could be a very tight fight for Bertie’s hand in coalition.


  • I think myself that SF and the PDs are two parties which responders to telephone polls would likely not express support for. They both carry a lot of baggage – SF is presented as the worst possible option by some in the right wing media while the right wing PDs have to get over their Gordon Gekko image problem.

    Similarly the Green Party could benefit in telephone polls from the politically correct vote. People would say they’re voting for them who might in fact have another party in mind.

    Just a few idle thoughts to puncture the infalliiblity of opinion polls.

    Has anyone, by the way, noticed how RTE have gotten around a self imposed ban on opinions polls in election year? They’re actually giving blanket coverage to polls being carried out in the constituencies by the various local newspapers. Cheap polling – if not entirely trustworthy. And a blatant breach of their own guidelines which demand caution in regard to outside opinion polls as these aren’t carried out, in all cases, to the same rigorous standards sought by the state broadcaster.

  • ejh

    Kinnock had ceased to be a “firebrand leftist” some long time before becoming Labour leader.