Sinn Fein surge taking ground from Labour in a volatile electorate…

I’m hoping we’ll have more detailed comment on the Irish Times poll. So treat this as a short preamble to other’s contributions. First, this is the Irish Times catching up with the last Red C poll. It confirms the Sinn Fein surge as the major political dynamic at the moment. It’s not an all time high, but it is way above where the party has been punching for the last few years.

The consensus on Morning Ireland this morning is that this is bad news for Fianna Fail. But 17 per cent it is probably a more realistic rating than the Red C’s poll for the Sun which gave them a mere 13%. As Stephen Collins notes too, it is the older generation who are sticking with them because they are “largely insulated from cuts.”

They are also the demographic who get out and vote.

Although it’s not been popular to say it on Slugger, Fine Gael are playing it very much steady as she goes,and reaping the reward of a stable rating in the polls. Michael Noonan’s response to the budget may not have been as ‘commanding’ as the Irish Independent suggests, but it had the virtue of being calm when others were losing their nerve.

What happens on the left will be interesting, with Labour seemingly losing support to Sinn Fein. Interestingly all leaders seem to be dropping capital regardless of their parties’ fortunes, although in Gerry Adams’ case its more steady as she goes than a drop as such.

Last word to the Times’ own leader which wraps the current dynamic within the country as neatly as any I’ve seen today:

The anger and volatility of the electorate has been revealed in the latest Irish Time /Ipsos MRBI opinion poll that also shows an unprecedented shift of support between the Opposition parties as uncertainty grows about the composition and policies of the next government.

It concludes by noting that “one-third of voters say they may change their voting intentions by election day”.

See also:

Michael White in the Guardian

Sinn Fein and the Labour Party

The (unmissable) Adrian Kavanagh

Keep an eye on Dotksi

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    A growing perccentage of the Plain People of Ireland, having given ‘the left’ an arse kicking the last time out, clearly think the country needs something different – with presumably SF and Labour fighting over this percentage particularly in Dublin – Fine Gael cant really sell themselves as different having largley cheerled the boom from the sidelines.

    I havent seen an explanation of why the Labour Party wont go into government with SF – I presume it is the Fine-Gaelesque – it’s good enough for Unionists to have put up with the (former) insurgents in government but not good enough for us?

    It would be highly enjoyable, if after the Election and the results fall the right way, that the Labour Party at least played footsey with SF just to see the blind panic in Fine Gael that they might miss out after all, having stuck with a leader from Connacht who sends the Wesht and the rest of the Country to sleep as soon as he spakes.

  • Mack


    I suspect there are a few reasons, public perceptions of SF’s relationship to the IRA are probably one of them I know long time Labour supporters who aren’t anyway comfortable with SF and their past.

    Labour and FG are both anchored around the centre while SF is more radical. What’s more they wouldn’t make up the numbers without support from the far left independents / ULA. Much of Labour’s centrist support base (and new Public Sector ex-FF refugees) would baulk at this..

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I agree the numbers are not there but it would put Labour in a very strong bargaining postion if, after the election, it was possible. Enda would be in a tizz and there could be another et tu (Richard) Bruton moment

    “I suspect ”

    Yes, but it would be nice to see h form of words they use given Gilmore’s own alleged alignment with Soviet insurrectionery politics.

  • Mack

    Yes, but it would be nice to see h form of words they use given Gilmore’s own alleged alignment with Soviet insurrectionery politics.

    The odd thing about this is most average, not particularly political people don’t really care about those types of things as far as I can tell. They do care about the SF – IRA connection though, presumably because it has been in full view – with full horrific force brought home in news report after news report for so long. It’s etched into group consciousness. It may be different for new younger voters who weren’t exposed to the troubles though…

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “They do care about the SF – IRA connection though, presumably because it has been in full view”.

    I agree but it just makes it slightly awkward for Gilmore as he then has to defend his own past.

    “It may be different for new younger voters who weren’t exposed to the troubles though…”

    Yes and it would be interesting to know their views on the differences and similarities between the insurgencies at either end of the 20th century.

  • shamie

    Also worth noting that behind the spin, Fine Gael are actually just 2.7% ahead of where they were in the 07 general election. When they lost…

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed @shamie.

    But – also in aid of anti spin – they lost when FF was coming in at 41.6%. Even allowing for a spring back into the 20s, that should grab themselves a bigger slice of the power cake relative to the last time out.

    Thus stability, for the moment, is FG’s trick. Not sure where their momentum is going to come from.

  • Fair Deal

    “What happens on the left will be interesting, with Labour seemingly losing support to Sinn Fein.”

    The figures can be interpreted that way alternatively it could be a FF to SF switch and Lab to FG switch.

  • Mick Fealty

    @Fair Deal:

    Could be. I’d sort of assumed that most FG minded people were sticking where they are (on the rather crude basis that there’s no shift in the figures).

  • Mack

    @Mick & Fair Deal,

    Actually I think Fair Deal’s analysis could be on the money.

    FG are up 6, Labour down 8.

    There’s a fair bit of overlap between the two as they are seen in tandem as the alternative and the government in waiting.

    Also there was the SF-Lab coalition scare in the Sindo a couple of weeks back that may have driven some Lab 1st, FG 2nd voters to reverse their preferences..

  • Instinctively, Fair Deal’s take makes sense. It’s always too big a temptation to over-simplify the word ‘swing’.

    I do wonder if SF will (Clegg-like) have a good campaign but not a good election result. The electorate do seem to like the *sound* of parties who are against more than they are for, but in the UK, they leave it at the door of the polling station.

    We’ll learn lots of things we don’t know about the Irish electorate this time.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think its far too volatile to make any kind of prediction. I think it would be possible to conduct an opinion poll in the morning and another one involving the same people in the afternoon and get two completely different answers.

    Alas when people eventually get into a polling booth, the first answer is the final answer. What the voters actually think when the results are announced could well be different.

    Three things. On these figures FF cant possibly recover. They know it. We all know it. And that makes them dangerous to be in Government. There will be more FF deserters anxious to keep their seats as Independents.

    Second thing. Sinn Féin now firmly identified in the Media as a left of centre party…as indeed the SDLP already is here. So clearly no more silliness in resport of a real leftist party being formed…….again.

    Lastly…….the curious antipathy between Labour and SF. It would be interesting just to break down the Labour people into what I might call “real Labour” and the “Officials, Stickies, Dem Left” variety.Is the latter more hostile to SF than the former. If so its nothing more than hypocrisy.

  • achtung

    regarding SF as a leftist party is a complete joke. the provisional movement may have had members with leftist leanings in the 70’s, and in brian keenan, a marxist idealogue. however, sinn fein masquerade as a socialist party only when it suits them, anything to get their paws on the levers of power. sinn fein’s views on people like brian keenan can be summed up with adams’ famous quote regarding keenan, “what can we do about a man like brian?”, inferring keenan was a law unto himself and not representative of the idealogy of the provisional movement.

    i feel sorry for southern voters who believe sinn feins’ street politics will translate into radical policies if they get anywhere near government positions. judging by their stance on many issues in the stormant assembly, they are no more left of centre than the present coalition government in britain, and that goes for the rest of the southern parties aswell.

    regarding the antipathy between the irish labour party and sinn fein, it is undoubtedly flavoured by the historical feverish hostility and hatred between the provisional and official IRA. i believe i am correct in stating there are still members of the labour party who were active in the official IRA. gilmore and rabbite for instance? anyway, for a party like the labour party to use the excuse of historical violence for not sharing power with sinn fein is simply a smokescreen and should be dismissed as pure hypocrisy if nothing else.

  • John Ó Néill

    I agree with FJH regarding the volatility of all this.

    I might try and put something longer together later this evening on this. Since the Green Party have flip-flopped back into the water on their apparent threat to pull out of government, chances are the government will survive on bringing in piecemeal budgetary legislation until April, which is close enough to the summer recess that there may be no election until September next year (at the earliest). Even with more ‘retirements’ on the way (Dempsey’s is rumoured today), FF appear to be in no hurry to hold conventions which may be an omen of nothing happening on the election front.

    In this respect, the record lows being registered by FF and the practical non-existence of the Greens in the polls are not going to entice either into an election. The analogy of turkey’s voting for Christmas may be a cliche, but turkeys are the dominant image the present coalition regularly brings to mind.

    Another trip to the High Court, anyone?

  • JeanMeslier

    Volatile is the operatve word here.
    Despite the rumours of early retirement I, for one, do not think for one moment that the free state minded establishment will do anything other than attack any progressive minded opponents.
    The northern bank robbery old story is nothing. They haven’t even started yet.
    Keep an eye on the (abortion) human rights story. I can hear Myers and Co. banging on the keyboards already. It will be all Sinn Feins fault.
    I do believe that the old OIRA/WP/Democratic Left connections within the cuckoo-in-the-nest section of the Labour Party will not escape the scribes of the free state press if, according to their standards, they see any intrusion into their hitherto privileged position.

  • MichaelMac

    FJH is correct in drawing attention to Old Labour and New Labour. New Labour being the old Officials.
    Mack points out the antipathy between Labour towards SF. Understanable given they used to shoot each other.

  • Neville Bagnall

    I’m also inclined to come down more in line with Fair Deal’s analysis.

    One relevant and two significant things have happened. The bye election, the bailout and the budget.

    SF got a good publicity boost from the bye-election, prolonged by the fact that Doherty is the new SF finance spokesman. That helped, but wouldn’t have swung the Labour vote. Likewise, I don’t think the differences between the SF and Labour budget and bailout policies are enough to swing the left wing of the Labour vote to the extent of 5%+

    At least as likely that the soft right wing of Labour’s support has been swung to FG by Labour failing to present a 4 year plan or commit to the cuts that FG & FF signed up for. Add in the increased taxation in the Labour plan and the recorded preference of the middle ground for cuts over taxes, and I think the strongest case is for a drift from Labour to FG.

    Finally, the meme of loss of sovereignty involved in the bailout is bound to have had an effect on the nationalist faction in FF’s support base. FF played up The National Interest and the Green Jersey during the crisis – its proven a double edged sword. That nationalistic vote isn’t going to swing straight to Labour, never mind FG. SF is a much more attractive home.

    I reckon FF first lost their economy vote to FG, then their trade union vote to Labour, and now finally their nationalist vote to SF. The remainder of their support, to paraphrase Theodore Hallam, would vote for a yellow dog as long as it stood for FF.

    Labour is being squeezed, but more from the right than the left.

    I think if Labour swings too far left it will lose votes in the east without picking them up elsewhere. If anything I think it should play up its Official Sinn Fein, Connolly and Labour Must Wait heritage. Labour has a nationalist tradition just as strong as the other parties. That is more likely to pick up floating votes in regions where Labour doesn’t have the organisation to attract or protect its soft edges.

  • Alias

    The elephant in the room is the EU. We are supposed to assume that this is not a determiner simply because the Europhile media choose to ignore growing opposition to EU and how it is translating into voting patterns. Negative stories about the EU are simply ignored in the media, as is its central role in the economic collapse of Ireland monetary system which, as it happens, was under EU governance. The fact that voters voted twice to reject two separate EU treaties shows that there is a steady majority of opposition to EU rule, whereas the absence of any political party to cater to this vote does not mean that it does not exist. In reality it is where the Shinners are getting their transfers from, being the nearest thing that Ireland has to a Eurosceptic party.

  • Munsterview

    Mac : “…. public perceptions of SF’s relationship to the IRA are probably one of them I know long time Labour supporters who aren’t anyway comfortable with SF and their past…..”

    Would that be the Official IRA / Official Sinn Fein who absorbed the old labour in a reverse take over of the party …… or Provo Sinn Fein who are taking over their party following ?

    Either way their unease and anxiety is quite understandable. The Doctor usually prescribes a good rest for people who show these symptoms and I have no doubt Sinn Fein will be delighted to organize the opportunity for just that in a few Labour seats !

  • Munsterview

    fitzJ : “…..Lastly…….the curious antipathy between Labour and SF. It would be interesting just to break down the Labour people into what I might call “real Labour” and the “Officials, Stickies, Dem Left” variety. Is the latter more hostile to SF than the former. Suppressed If so its nothing more than hypocrisy……”

    Surprised of you fitZj not to have a handle on that one, Goulding and Gardner were Gerry’s and my generation. Gilmore, The rabbit etc were later and indoctrinated by the ‘Harrased One’ and the Cruiser et al. The Provos were the ‘Great Satan’ that destroyed the Sticks Grand Revolution plan in the seventies etc.

    Theoretical revolution was all very well but when the real one happened…… well you know the story, IRA on Belfast walls did not stand back then for Irish Republican Army !

    I heard Maura Drumm relate on several occasions of how having defended areas with a handful of antiquated revolvers, herself and some others made a dash South of the Border to get some supplies and called to a hotel in Dundalk only to find the entire Belfast Official Command there, revolvers in waistbands and all tucked into stake dinners. To say that there was a confrontation is putting it very mildly indeed!

    These things are not generally spoken of nowadays and exchanges are civil, but you will not find both parties TDs sharing a golf outing etc, the legacy of the old days lives on and is not forgotten on either side.

    Likewise the Sticks/Labour are in 69/70 nightmare country again, they were on the verge of becoming the largest political group in Irish politics except guess who turned up again to spoil their party ?

    So fitzJ, no love lost this time around either …… and that is before the real cockfights start in Dublin, Cork, Tralee, Limerick and a few more places where there will be a sharp interface! One of these days I must have a look on the internet for a few Indian Pipes and tobacco, I have a feeling they may be needed!

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    My qestion was mosly rhetorical and as a 17 year old in August 1969 in West Belfast, my recollections are crystal clear. Of course the Stickies got off pretty lightly thanks in part to very compliant RTE and print journalists. And their tortured progression thru various name changes each one attempting to distance themselves from their Past is amusing.
    Less amusing is Gilmore, Rabbitte, de Rossa lording it over original Labourites like Burton and Quinn. Basically its entryism.
    I fully take the point that the Provo spectre looms large in their thinking.