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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  • Mark McGregor

    Hopelessly optimistic.

    McCartney took away nearly two electoral cycles, close to 5% and closer to 10% in the south.

    Any raising of the party’s links to the worst of the IRA’s actions will be a few percentage points dropped and seats no longer winnable.

    There is no McDowell this time but expect Labour to eventually focus on IRA issues. (they dont play well with most of the elecorate – this seems to surprise SF)

  • Munsterview

    John O’N : “…..In reality, the chances are the coalition government will survive on bringing in piecemeal budgetary and other legislation until March or even April……”

    Completely disagree with that John!

    My Old NS Teacher had a habit of saying ” There is a limit to what I can take.” and the leg of a chair came out of the press!

    The people down here had reached their limits weeks ago. The Greens by their ‘ Government on notice of withdrawal ‘ stunt diffused the public anger. What was the point of taking to the streets to get them out when the shower were leaving anyway.

    The end of January is about it and then there will be more than a cement mixer at the gate if they are still there.

    Sinn Fein went before the people in the 1918 election with the slogan ‘ Put Them In To Get Them Out……… Now it will be a case of ” Put Them Out To Get Them In ” ! A Dail walk out by Sinn Fein and the election kick-started would concentrate minds nicely of all left behind.

    Oh for the Joys of being a slightly constitutional party and making our own rules again!

  • John Ó Néill

    MV – I wouldn’t rely on FF/Greens calling an election any time soon – it took til the end of March to complete the necessary budgetary legislation last year. I didn’t mention it since it may all have been hot air, but if there is a successful heave against Cowen there isn’t a snowball in hells chance of an election this side of September – I wouldn’t be as quick as you to have them declared dead – I want to see the last ballot counted first.
    In the short term, a motion of no confidence by the SF/Indos technical group with the support of some of the loopier Greens (such as Gogarty) or FF backbenchers is perhaps the most likely scenario.
    Mark – that assumes that something will happen involving Sinn Féin in the next year that will have that impact. I was surprised at how quickly the Northern Bank story died. Everyone down here is so concerned with the economy and other issues that spinning a five year old story that relies on briefings by FF isn’t going to work any more either. There is a bit of a paradigm shift at the moment and while no-one is going to forget the past, the psychological damage of the last few months has been immense and the political mood has shifted considerably (and Sinn Féin appears to have found a place in southern politics beyond the national question).
    As MV keeps pointing out – Labour have a lot of ex-Officials around who have edited their own CVs and don’t necessarily want to discuss the bits they have left out. Either way, I’d wait until the first opinion poll comes out after an election is called before getting carried away with the position of any particular party (never mind the real thing itself).

  • pippakin

    I thought the Greens were being too optimistic? in saying the election would be in January. I thought it would be end of March, beginning of April. If the Greens keep their word that is still the most likely timetable.

    FF may be sounding as though they don’t want an early election but they must know the latest cuts have not started to hurt yet, when they do what support they have left will almost certainly take another dive.

  • John Ó Néill

    Pippakin – I wouldn’t trust the Greens word. For what it is worth, Labour candidates are working to an end of February election, as are Fine Gael.

  • pippakin

    John O’Neill

    End of February? I’m not sure that works in terms of the legislation still to be done and the length of time FF may be able to drag such legislation out.

    A part of the FF plan (if they have one) must be to hang on long enough to for people time to ‘forget’ the aspect but not so long that the cuts start to cause real pain, and definitely not long enough for default to start to look inevitable, which I believe it is, regardless of the steps they have taken.

  • pippakin

    Sorry mangled this : A part of the FF plan (if they have one) must be to hang on long enough for people to ‘forget’ the loss of sovereignty aspect but not so long that the cuts start to cause real pain

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    There is too much posturing at the moment. Its a phoney war and no date for the real war to start.
    Yet the three by elections are interesting. Clearly it was in SFs interest to have Donegal South West settled but theres no real public outrage over three vacancies.
    A reasonable conclusion might be that nobody wants to see a “real” election. The opinion polls make better reading for everybody.
    I was looking last night at 2009 Dublin South West which George Lee won and resigned just eight months later. Supplemented by the 2007 figures makes for interesting reading.
    Lee took 53% of the vote against a FG General Election tally of 27%. Its hard to see how FG could better Lees performance.
    Look at FF……41% became 18%. In a worse climate, they would do worse.
    Labour 11% became 20% but there is no real hope of improving with SF on the rise.
    And yet it was a poor result from SF……3%. Anything less than 10% (which would after all be trebling their vote) would be seized on as a glich. Sinn Féin needs the spectre of success more than it needs a possible reality check.

    As I am suffering a bad bout of man flu I cannot easily look up yesterdays posts but was struck by Munsterviews (? apologies if I wrongly attribute this) observation that old Special Branch files might be dusted down. Indeed thats possible. But of course the State is not the only player with an Intelligence Service.
    Several years ago the Tax Amnesty was availed by several politicians and we dont fully know the extent. It is unlikely to have included only members and high profile backers of one party.
    Of course the details are confidential. Properly.
    But an enterprising clerk in the Revenue Commissioners (public spirited whistleblower or nasty little sneak) might have a pension plan.
    The curious thing about the Amnesty is that it got by in the era when being a cute hoor was fashionable……even patriotic
    Less so now.
    My point is this election will be dog rough. Very very dirty.

  • pippakin


    Yep. It will be dog rough. I’m really looking forward to the campaign…

  • Alias

    Given that Ireland doesn’t have any economic sovereignty, an Irish election contest is like a bunch of eunuchs fighting over the last copy of Playboy: absurd, pitiful, but fascinating in a macabre sort of way.

  • Nunoftheabove


    Likin’ it; half a dozen profoundly bald men scrapping over a comb, certainly.

    Still, if the state is to be a supervized naughty child than we may as well have nannies in who at least understand the legislation on, ahem, spanking, and who won’t take a sledge hammer to the naughty step while the parents are out making a living to pay the nannying bills.

  • pippakin

    I haven’t given up on the idea that the new government will tell the ECB/IMF etc where they can go for their money, and who they can go after.

  • Nunoftheabove


    More hope than expectation but I do know what you mean. I’m sure they ECB in particular can’t believe their Linfield-esque luck that the punch-drunkards in Dublin didn’t face them down from the get-go and give them a clear indication that a scratching of the ECB’s back was only half of the story and that either they would be adults and bring their own German back-scratching sticks to the table or they could just feck right away off.

    Feels like a very poor self-misreading of Ireland’s real possible negotiating position. Yet one more reason to boot the rotten current administration the, like, hell out.

  • Munsterview

    FitzJ :”………My point is this election will be dog rough. Very very dirty…….”

    You are totally correct, it will be like that, parish pump politics at their worst, the National interest forgotten, every man and woman in the constituency for themselves, every last vote counting, each at each others throats, each attempting to knock out the other, all the candidates dishing dirt out on each other, the blame game, who knew or did what, when, who was aware of operations, who sanctioned them, all the old fear and loathing of political pasts exposed, explanations demanded, misdeeds of wife’s and children up for scrutiny, issues to do with banks and dodgy withdrawals of money, stories to do with assaults and violence leaked to the press or actually breaking out at the count centers and making it into the public media !

    That is sure is the type of election it will be !

    However moving from the Fianna Fail election conventions to the election proper, that will be a far more sedate and sober, but yet it should be much livelier than previous years!

  • Mick Fealty


    I think you’ll find that Brian, Bertie, Dermot and Mary all commented on those leaked cables…

  • Munsterview

    Off thread but since a few of these funniest ten Irish gravestone inscriptions refer to the North, they may merit a chuckle or two for readers!

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – if you read what I said, the surprise was that everyone in the broadcast media (apart from RTE) more or less ignored the FF line and ran with a dismissive Gerry Adams quote from the top of the piece with no direct FF quotes or talking heads. I’d figured on following the arc of it for a few days to see how it played out and it died almost immediately. I doubt that what was the intention.