Fianna Fail: The meltdown is fact!

“….A lot of Fianna Fail TD are going to have a lot more time to spend with their families in Christmas 2011″ – Noel Whelan, Pat Kenny show RTE morning radio show discussing the poll result !

In the past weeks while all the poll figures pointed to serious difficulties for Fianna Fail, those long in the tooth and grey in the head on these matters took cognizance of the polls but wanted to see more before coming to any firm conclusions. To-day’s Irish Times Opinion poll provided the proof that this was not just a blimp or passing anomaly.

FF are not simply down, they are devastated. Based on these polls according to Noel Whelan, Irish Times, they could be looking at a two third of their electoral representatives wipe out ! This is no longer  just a possibility, on the Times poll figures it is a probability !

While I have spend a lifetime opposing Fianna Fail, I can also feel for the ‘back room boys’ to-day involved in the strategy behind the politics, it must be absolute horror for them.

This is not the the esoteric reading of entrails stuff only for the usual political anoraks, this is clear and transparent for the average politically interested person to see. This an authoritative poll with few grey areas or much leeway for prevarication. A few things make this poll unique.

The poll shows 64 per cent of people have made up their minds how they will vote while 34 per cent may change their minds.

The election is not yet called, it could be four weeks to twelve weeks yet we have a figure of 64 % of the electorate firm in their intentions, polls seldom come more definite than that!  Then there is the methodology of the poll per se……

“…. The poll was taken on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent…..”

No room here for Dublin area, West Of The Shannon factors or Lowery/ Healy Rae  distortions, since all 43 constituencies were sampled. That is not to say that these things will not figure in the focused local situations, but as of now this is the overview, the big picture. These figures are based on people who have already made up their minds !  We are on fairly firm ground here.

Among decided voters, the figures for party support were: Fine Gael, 32 per cent; Labour, 21 per cent; Fianna Fáil, 19 per cent; Sinn Féin, 17 per cent; Greens, 1 per cent; and Independents/Others, 10 per cent.

On these figures also the non Labour Left, sometimes referred to as ‘The Alternative Left’ would appear to have their best opportunity to make advances in decades. As Elaine Byrne writes in an IT opinion yesterday, Prof Michael Gallagher, Trinity College Dublin, has noted in the blog, “……  that not only is confidence in Government low but confidence in the Opposition is not a great deal higher….. “

However Elaine also strikes a note of caution …… “ The wonderful thing, however, about the absolute assumption of predictability is how vulnerable it is to unpredictability…..”

I would go along with that. A week is a long time in politics as the saying goes. In the South we have seen hours and days following that ‘long time’ maxim and it is yet a hell of a long way to an election. Fianna Fail are seeking a floor and fighting back. However there other significant players that have not yet shown their hand, what the late and great  John Healy, journalist of  ‘unemployed grave dancer fame’  referred to as ‘The Permanent Government’

If Fianna Fail are shellshocked and in disarray, ‘The Permanent Government’ is not and the last thing they want or will countenance is a significant swing to the Left or the possibility of a Left Dail majority while they can do anything about it.

I have no doubt a lot of old C3 Garda Intel files are being dusted down as I write and do not be surprised to find that certain leftists had, shall we say, an interesting past and there will be more than the odd awkward question to answer. Then there are the rumors that will not go away of a new centrist party forming.   It is all still to play for !

In my next blog I will have a try at reading the entrails and  offer more specific comment. For now these are the figures and and a preliminary  assessment make of them what you will!

  • SethS

    A glass half full/empty for Labour, still on course for their best result but a massive fall since the last poll.

  • The Word


    You seem to be gloating over the fall in support for Fianna Fail and also about the rise of the “Alternative Left” as you describe them.

    Was that a slight drop in Sinn Fein support from the last poll you’re referring to? And a rise for FF?

    I have no doubt that as the election day nears you’ll find that responsible politics will be supported and the “Alternative Left” will be squeezed. That’s what normally happens in southern elections.

    A better opinion poll might determine exactly why people are supporting parties. And just to annoy you more, I would say that just days after an extremely austere, and highly unfair in some respects, budget and the Sinn Fein vote actually goes down.

  • One of the paradoxes of the Irish political scene is the fact that Fine Gael and Labour, though ideologically opposed always seem to end up as an alliance in Government when FF are out of power.

    Since it appears that we are about to experience a generational change in Irish politics, what will the impact of this be for the Fine Gael / Labour alliance?

    It seems to me that Irish politics would be much healthier and stronger if these two parties did not go into Government together.

  • pippakin

    I’m not convinced its as cut and dry as you seem to think, undoubtedly SF have and are still improving, but it is early days, they were similarly euphoric in 2007.

    Its true Labour need to up their game they are no longer the only left wing party and cannot afford to take their supporters for granted.

    Having said all that SF are the only party whose progress or not, is not entirely up to their performance.

  • Mick Fealty

    To be fair, I don’t think the party is particularly euphoric this time round. They know that like the market stocks can go down as well as up.

  • Munsterview

    The Word,

    I did not really analyzise or comment, that will be for the next blog. While my own personal politics are no great secret, I have tried to be dispassionate in my commentary. You on the other hand have a bee in your bonnet regarding Sinn Fein and hopefully following the next Northern election you will also have a sting in your political backside to go with it!

  • Mick Fealty

    Let’s keep this clean and on subject MV. If someone’s hit a low blow or off subject hin the offensive button and I will deal with it via the back end!!

  • pippakin

    Mick Fealty

    You don’t? perhaps its in the eye of the beholder. SF are in for a tough fight, they have a very good candidate in Pearse Doherty but he is all they have. Labour have to improve but that can be described as up to them. SF can do their best and be downed by something outside their control. MV referred to the ‘dusting off of old files’. I think he is right, in spades.

  • pippakin


    At last! well done on the blog but where is the historical one?

  • Munsterview

    Seymour :

    Agreed a true Right, Centre and Left divide in Irish politics is long overdue and I also believe that Irish Politics would be the better for it. Personally I cannot see it happening this time round…… on current trends I hasten to add.

    Current trends is all we have to go on, for all their left posturing Labour have around 35% support from public service unions, you will find little about ‘understandings’ between the likes of Jack O’Connor and Eamon Gilmore in the public sphere, but that do not mean that deals have not been done. Indeed Eamon would be very foolish not to have already consolidated this base and there is little frivolous about Gilmores approach to politics.

    The most common adjective used by all political commentators is down here to describe the political situation is ‘volatility’ and I agree, while we have a relative stable electorate we have a very unstable political situation. We have an open political powder keg lying there just waiting for a spark. Such is the situation that God only knows where this can or will come from if it do, but one thing is relatively sure, it is unlikely to be predictable as to where that spark will come from.

    Pip….. No way am I predicting ‘cut and dry’ there could be some big surprises yet, suppose for instance someone is able to prove that Gerry was involved in you know what after all. I shudder to think what damage that could do to SF !

  • Munsterview


    But that is what I did……. Fianna Fail…… are…….history !

  • pippakin


    I’m not rising to the bait! this is your thread. I like the idea of a left wing alliance. Its not impossible and if it were agreed before the election only think of what might be..

    Stay cool no turgid anything….

  • MichaelMac

    Labour crashed this time around because of the pathetic performace of Joan Burton whose monotone, sloth like delivery, would drive you into a coma.
    It is not enough for Labour to hide and simply hope to benefit by default because of the hatred of FF.
    Doherty has run rings around Labour and it appears to be paying off.

  • pippakin


    Regretfully and through gritted teeth – agreed, they really have got to improve.

  • Munsterview


    easy on the refs whistle, it may spoil the flow of play !

    I have taken a few knocks here from time to time, yet after the clash I was not the one stretched off the field. And I have managed to dodge the card in the process ( so far anyway)

  • MichaelMac


    Roisin Shortall was doing a few stints on RTE lately and she was a vast improvement,
    Burton was brutal in the Dail yesterday and Doherty ripped into her, Tommy Broughan had to intervene on Burtons behalf. The optics and the smile on Dohertys face said it all.

  • pippakin


    I saw and she was a vast improvement. Better speaking voice and at least appeared passionate about her cause.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Calling all pollsters…

    “representative sample of 1,000 voters” – in what respect is it representative ?

    “The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent…..” – what’s the margin of error on the margin of error ?

    …and how does the margin of error be impacted by the fact that 34% people said they weren’t sure and might change their minds as opposed to the 64% of people who presumably are sure they’re won’t change their minds but (i) might change their minds anyway; and/or (ii) might not vote at all, much like the people who admit they’re not sure ?

    Quare science altogether, this. Does anyone know of bookies who’ll take bets on the polls themselves being wrong by very broad margins – anyone in for the spread ?

  • Mick Fealty


    Let me worry about. Some standards have slipped pretty badly. It all starts with the innocent knock or two.

  • Munsterview

    Nunof…… an inexact science to be sure, but it is like the Unionist concept of democracy, sometimes you just have to just work with what you have got!

  • PaddyReilly

    1) Opinion polls are not facts;
    2) The way you ask the question and the question you ask slant the results;
    3) Nevertheless, the tendency is always for SF to do better in the elections than they do in the polls;
    4) Equally, the (perceived) incumbent party would be expected to lose ground, even in a good year, which this clearly is not;
    5) In a PR system, the percentage of the 1st pref vote is not final, it is the transfers which determine the number of seats acquired;
    6) A vote for SF in the Irish Republic is not an endorsement of their activities in the 6 counties.

  • Nunoftheabove


    …..the unionists have a concept of democracy ? Ach well sure with all this misery about we can always soil ourselves laughing about the references to the alternative (to the ?) left for the meantime or, failing that, console ourselves with the news of the solemn Stormont undertaking to “bear down” on costs in departments, with a pledge to review, er, quangos within, ahem, the next six months, after which , we’re excited to learn, some could be ditched or – get this – even merged.

    Keep still, you fools – you’ll drown us all !

  • Alias

    Folks should remember the dynamic by which the factions that comprise the Irish electorate now vote, and it has nothing to do with promoting the national interest.

    There are a lot of people who are pleased that the banks were bailed-out, and this group will thank FF with their vote for that. There are a lot of people who are insulated from the economic downturn, so this group won’t punish FF for that. There are a lot of farmers and other vested commercial interests that benefit from what they wrongly see as EU largess, and this group will vote for the party that pandered to the EU, not least in yielding to EU demands to bail-out the banks but in yielding to EU demands to disregard the original referendum result for the Lisbon Treaty.

    FF would only be wiped out if people voted to promote the national interest but then so would every other party in Ireland. So the way if works is that those who see FF as being of some selfish benefit to them will continue to vote for them, just as others will vote for other parties on that basis.

  • The Word


    “Nevertheless, the tendency is always for SF to do better in the elections than they do in the polls;”

    Not in the south, especially not last time out. Why would the southerners tell lies?


    Again you trumph us all with cynicism. In spite of their politics, some say because of it, there are still some very decent people in FF.

    One only has to compare the dignity of Brian Lenihan in giving a very unpopular budget to the brass neck amateurism of Sammy Wilson trying to convince us that a BA in economics means he knows something about the economy. It would make you sick.

  • Neville Bagnall

    They reported the decided vote figure in this poll in addition to the core vote (not sure if they did this before) so I cranked out a further breakdown. I presumed the 34% undecided was a misprint and it should be 36%

    OK, the numbers get silly when they get this small and the core vote is rounded, further adding to the inaccuracy, but I think the exercise does throw up a couple of points…

    Party Decided Core Leaning Leaning/Core
    FG 20.48 23 2.52 10.96%
    Lab 13.44 18 4.56 25.33%
    FF 12.16 13 0.84 6.46%
    SF 10.88 11 0.12 1.09%
    Grn 0.64 1 0.36 36.00%
    Oth 6.40 9 2.60 28.89%
    Und 36.00 25

    First, of the top 4, Labour has the softest vote by a wide margin, (or has won the most floaters, depending on the spin), and could finish anywhere from 1st to 4th in percentage of the fp vote by attracting or losing floating votes.

    Second, people generally don’t lean SF. Once a voter opts for them, they are committed. Thats kinda what I’d expect given their Lemass style “slightly constitutional party” status and that they’re on the way up. I’m curious to see if that remains true. I’d also love to know if its true in the North.

    Lastly, there is still, despite everything, a bit of play in the FF support.

    Nothing earth shattering, in fact the only thing I wasn’t expecting was the FF lean, which I’m putting down to the budget.

    Still, interesting to see assumptions confirmed in the figures.

    I’m still of the opinion that the majority of movement here was Labour to FG and FF to SF. Granted a big element of that opinion is that I think the bailout was the third tipping point for FF supporters, and that tipping points result in switches of support rather than drifts in floating votes.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Preview tells me pre tag works, but apparently it doesn’t. Anyone know if code or table tags work?

  • The Word


    Hard to know how to begin even to interpret your figures.

    But how about voters moving from FF to FG and from Labour to SF. Policy would be important in this approach where it seems absent from your analysis.

    Again somebody asserts that SF voters, once converted, are 100% committed. That was far fromn the experience in the last general election, and again why would they be committed in the south. What’s their unique selling point – that they’ll out-argue everybody?

  • pippakin

    I’m not sure the FF core vote will desert them in the numbers the opinion poll indicates. It will be interesting to see how many of the rats jump ship, and who replaces them.

    All politics is local but nowhere is it more ‘local’ than Ireland.

  • Neville Bagnall

    @The Word

    My analysis, and I’ll grant it could be way off, goes like this…

    There have been 3 tipping points for FF supporters where they jumped party rather than drifted into Leaning or Undecided.

    The first was when the “sound economic management” camp jumped to FG.

    The second when the trade union/public sector vote jumped to Labour.

    I think the third occurred when the bailout became inevitable. I presume there was a nationalist vote that was supporting FF because it was acting “in the national interest”, and “putting the country before the party”. I presume it was a support base that was more republican in outlook and was sticking with FF as the natural, republican, party of government. I think the bailout, and maybe even more so, the “fiction” fiasco was the tipping point for those supporters.

    They jumped. But just like before, they aren’t natural floaters. They plumped for another party. And in this case, given where they were coming from, why they held out so long, and why they jumped, my analysis is SF would be their most natural new home as the most vocally nationalist and anti-european party.

    There have been other smaller events affecting the undecided vote drifting between FF, FG and Labour. Bank guarantee, reform agenda, Kenny, Cowan, Gilmore; but these affect the drift; I reckon the 3 big shifts affected the decided vote. Earthquakes as the tectonic plates moved.

    When I say the SF vote is committed, I’m not arguing that it is immovable, or that they have a u.s.p. Rather the reverse. I suspect that southern voters find it harder to consider SF, and that is why they have such a small or under-reported lean vote. Rural voters have a similar issue with Labour and the Greens. It may make the vote easier to win back to the centre ground too. I just think people will either report support or non-support, but will go shy-tory about reporting a lean to or actually voting SF.

    Ditto for the decided votes of the other parties. They are not immovable. After the jump from FF to FG, the vote drifted back to FF, but then jumped again in combination with the FF-left jump to Labour. But without a tipping point, I believe most voters go from decided to leaning to undecided before leaning elsewhere.

    I think media performance and policy affects that process and will have affected all the parties this time, most critically between FG and Labour. I think this is supported by the attitudes to economic policy reported in polling.

    I do not believe there were sufficient economic policy changes from FF, FG or Labour to support the ripple scenario. Rather that they lived down to expectations. I think Labour lost votes to undecided on left and right, and FG converted undecided.

    The SF jump however I attribute more to the FF tipping point and occurred before the economic implications of the bailout were clear or the policy differences between the parties had been crystallised. On top of that they converted a small number of undecided.

    Anyway thats my analysis for what its worth. I think its as good an explanation for the polls we’ve seen since 2007 as anything else.

  • Neville,

    You should be able to create hyperlinks, bold, italics, but I think that’s about it. Don’t try inserting tables or anything like that.