Move along, nothing to see here.

This morning, Mick blogged on the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll (while blagging all the most  interesting links into the bargain). While there may be some methodological differences, the broader thrust is similar to that of the recent Red C poll where Lab + SF + GP = FF + FG – 2% although this has now drifted out to Lab + SF + GP = FF + FG – 5%, suggesting that this is not simply movement from Labour to Sinn Féin.

Last weekend, there was an attempt to re-float a 2005 story about the Northern Bank robbery as a new story, mainly by RTE (who obviously don’t read their own archived webpages). The net effect was odd as most stations seemed to carry dismissive interviews with Gerry Adams and none from the key Fianna Fáil players, especially Bertie Ahern. Intentional, or otherwise, this framed what is an inevitable aspect of a Sinn Féin election campaign which is objection handling with regard to what did or didn’t happen in the past. The opinion poll was taken in the day or two afterwards, but whether it had any impact at all is hard to tell.

But if you look closely at the picture there is still nothing to see here.

Despite all the talk, there isn’t anything actually happening that suggests an election is imminent. True, Fianna Fáil TDs are still in a holding pattern until it is their turn to announce their retirement (Cooper Flynn seemingly beating Noel Dempsey out the door today).[Update, 17.12.2010: now Dempsey’s officially gone too]. No-one seems to have registered, though, that Fianna Fáil haven’t been in a rush to hold conventions and position their own candidates (nor have the Greens). After a mumbled suggestion that they would set a date, it has been the other parties who have begun their selection processes, allowing Fianna Fáil to size up the field and perhaps let the rest inflict some collateral damage on each other as they jockey for position at a local level. If Labour did peak early, perhaps Fianna Fáil are hoping that they will leave the other candidates standing in the cold too long before opening the electoral door.

On the basis of the last Ipsos Mori and Red C polls, neither government party is likely to be in a rush to the ballot box and the independent TDs who withdrew their support are somehow back on board (at an undisclosed price). Coming to think of it, the Greens were apparently off-side a couple of weeks ago, but now appear not to have been interfering with play. Even odder, a reported row between Fianna Fáil and Green ministers has somehow pushed out the prospect of an election, rather than bringing it closer. The Greens now want their proposed legislation on corporate donations, a Climate Change Bill and a directly-elected Dublin mayor passed on before they do (although why a stag-hunting bill that divided the coalition partners was higher up the agenda isn’t at all clear).

In reality, the chances are the coalition government will survive on bringing in piecemeal budgetary and other legislation until March or even April, which is close enough to the summer recess that there may be no election until September next year (giving both Fianna Fáil and the Greens breathing space to stage a recovery of sorts if they can). Whether that does them any good in the polls will be what colours the relationships of the coalition partners for the next few months.

A bounce in the polls to the dizzying heights of 4% may see the Greens try to tweet their way to electoral salvation, while I doubt Fianna Fáil ever want to call another election. Most likely it will take at least the High Court to intervene regarding by-elections (if not more) if we are to see an election this side of the first 2 or 3 IMF-ECB progress reports.

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