In Ireland, the parish and the county matter more than ideology

Probably the sharpest comment on the latest polls comes from former Justice Minster Michael McDowell, when he notes that:

The latest poll does not indicate any last-minute surge in support one way or the other. But of course, we haven’t reached the “last minute” yet. Labour appears to have come off worst in its scrap with Fine Gael and the “Gilmore for Taoiseach” posters are going to become collectors’ items — just as the famous 1969 Labour poster “The Seventies Will Be Socialist” became iconic symbols of over-reaching ambition.


However with Don’t Knows still at around 20%, there are likely to be a few surprises left in the can before Friday. Of those moving parties, in the Sunday Independent poll at least, they are moving from Fianna Fail to Fine Gael at roughly twice the rate they are going to Labour.

But for all the enthusiastic talk from the top to bottom in the Sunday Independent for Fine Gael going it alone, McDowell says their pre-election vote management strategy only allowed for a tight fight with Fianna Fail and that that has left them in difficulty pressing home for a full one party advantage:

With the benefit of hindsight, FG should have signalled a go-it-alone strategy last year and recruited heavy-hitter candidates to go for majorities in three, four and five-seat constituencies.

The very late nomination of Peter Mathews in Dublin South illustrates the opportunity it has lost elsewhere.

Of course, the reality of total melt-down in FF was not as apparent then. And prevailing electoral orthodoxy is to keep your vote tight by keeping your candidate numbers tight.

And the extent of this meltdown of FF is not even certain. It’s instructive that within 10 years of FG’s meltdown and the last rumours of the end of civil war politics, it is a civil war party that’s making the ground, not the new radicals of the left, or even the old stagers of Labour.

In Irish politics, the parish and the county still matter much more than whatever ideology you are peddling. Come Saturday, that’s likely to make the difference between the two main contenders for government.

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