Seeing what we want to see…

The prize for the widest of the mark prediction of the election must surely go to the otherwise experienced John Drennan of the Sunday Independent. Just five days prior to the election, he predicted that Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, was in danger of failing to win a seat at all and would battle it out with a pair of ‘nondescript Fianna Fail candidates’ for the last seat. Here’s part of Drennan’s piece published in the Sunday Independent on the 20th February:

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is struggling to avoid a humiliating defeat in the constituency of Louth…… sources now believe Mr Adams will be engaged in an embarrassing struggle with a pair of nondescript Fianna Fail candidates for the final seat. The Fine Gael surge had put paid to any hopes of Mr Adams topping the poll, but strong campaigns by Labour and the second Fine Gael candidate Peter Fitzpatrick have damaged the Adams brand. And local sources said the ‘transfer repellent’ status of the ‘British Baron’ means his election is far from certain.

Alas, another election campaign has ended with a post-mortem concluding that, once again, the pundits had gotten it wrong about Sinn Fein’s prospects. I have already highlighted the fact that Eoghan Harris, also of the Sunday Indo stable, has found himself owing a four figure sum to Jude Collins over his ill-considered prediction that Fianna Fail would wipe out Sinn Fein in this election.

Predicting election results is an occupational hazard for political correspondents at the best of times, but it is all the more so when personal political outlooks appear to cloud judgements.

As Jude Collins highlighted in this piece examining the contrasting reaction of certain political pundits to the performance of Gerry Adams in the immediate aftermath of the Five Leaders’ Debate, it is interesting to observe how media narratives can be constructed based largely on subjective analysis amongst the like-minded.

  • Mark McGregor


    But lets remind ourselves in 2007 most of the pundits and shinner loyalists, as we both were back then, called that election as a double figure one for SF. How wrong were we?

    Sometimes you get it wrong, sometimes you call it right.

    At least we didn’t have a queue of gloaters pointing at our bad call.

  • Mark McGregor

    Maybe you should also point out, despite his lost bet Eoghan Harris has a lucrative career and he can easily pay his debt. How is Jude’s career going? Still bitching about the IN on the worst designed blog in Ireland?

    The £1000 is some victory.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well of course John Drennans piece was comfort food for people who like to read what he wrote.
    It would have been pretty obvious last week that Gerry Adams, Bailif of Wherever was going to be elected to an Dáil.
    So the Indo was not going to get the headline that it wanted.
    Therefore it ran with basically a “what if” fantasy piece.

    I doubt that the editor of the Sunday Independent is actually going to call Drennan into the office to tell him that he is a truly awful political political analyst and sack him on the spot and sign me up cos Im better analyst 😉
    Drennan was simply obliging his paymasters. And compromising his talent.
    Slugger is filled with examples writing Sinn Féins obituary. Before the last seat was called in the Souths election the usual suspects were at it again. Ultimately its harmless.

  • USA

    It’s the Independent, a load of trash from cover to cover. If I could buy it over here I wouldn’t. As much credibility and the same one track agenda as a certain Slugger blogger…….

  • Drumlins Rock

    Chris, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to find some obscure prediction from a FF loyalist saying they would remain in power! so I doubt Drennan has earned the award. As for Gerry topping the poll, on nearly 22% of the vote, they should have ran a second candidate, but the ego trip was felt to be more important.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I think there were plenty gloating at Sinn Fein’s 2007 electoral setbacks, not least on Slugger. And that’s their right.

    As I mention in the post, predictions are an occupational hazard for political journalists.

    But I really doubt many politicos truly believed a week prior to the election, when Adams’ own party was sitting above 10% in the polls, that Adams was a toss-up to win the seat.

    Regarding Jude Collins, he seems to be keeping himself busy writing books and making radio appearances….and regarding the blog, methinks you’re a wee bit harsh there!

  • Munsterview

    Would folks reflect for a moment Independent Newspaper was the one that called for the execution of Connoly and cheered the act. It had a certain ethos then and it still has now. It protects and campaigns to keep Ireland safe for ‘Business’ such as the privitatisation and plundering of the old P&T while distracting the public with some of the most inane excuses for newspaper reporters and columnists that any European country is straddled with.

    The Indo is in fact so bad by European standards that one needs to go to Italy and some of the media of the PM there to get anything as inane and banal. One thing for sure however with the Indo, no scribe on it will ever get carpeted for doing down a Shinner !

  • Chris Donnelly

    Drumlin Rock
    Find a senior political journalist claiming five days prior to polling that FF were destined to remain in power and I’ll gladly join you in nominating them for the title!

    I don’t really believe a two candidate strategy would have been a good thing. I think it would have smacked of arrogance and, given his blow in status, it was important that Adams and the party be seen to be not taking his prospective new constituents for granted.

    I could well believe that Sinn Fein directed too many resources to the Louth campaign simply on the basis that, election after election in the north, the party is incapable of running a genuinely 6-county wide election campaign. Instead, the heirarchicy of constituency approach by the leadership has ensured that 5 seats are held in west Belfast yet not a thought is given to expanding the party into other constituencies- like East Antrim, Strangford and vast parts of other constituencies.

    But that, as they say, is for another day.

  • Lionel Hutz

    To be fair, in this election I think it is a bit unfair to criticize anyone getting it a bit wrong, even on Gerry. There were alot of negative things going on in Louth, with the McConville etc.

    In any case, I would expect the same wide of the mark predictions at the next election as we are in extremely volitile territory. If the elections was held again in a month Fianna Fail simply manage to hold the same share of the vote and be sensible about the prospects of their candidates, they could have up to 30 seats. Too many imcumbants spoiled the broth.

    The same applies to all parties and Sinn Fein benefitted from that mismanagement more than most, Laois Offaly and Sligo North Letrim are examples where Sinn Fein would lose out if others managed their vote as well as the Sinners have.

  • Chris Donnelly

    that’s ‘heirarchy’ of course…..I’m away to bed. World Maths Day ends in the morning and clearly I need to prepare for World Spelling Day this Friday.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Indeed Mr Hutz…….but I think its fair to say that Mr Adams was written off prior to the Westminster Election. And for this Dáil Election…….and Ms McConvilles memory was invoked on each occasion.
    Contrary to the expectation/hope of those who raised the issue, it had absolutely no effect.
    A reasonable conclusion might be that ……with the passage of even more time………there can be no further “expectation” that enough people will care enough to change their minds about voting for Mr Adams.
    Perhaps those that raise the issue might again “hope” (if not expect) that the issue will be of significance to more than themselves.
    But it strikes me that Sinn Féin and Mr Adams are no longer vulnerable on either Jean McConville or the broader issue of their terrorist campaign or intimidation, fraud, embezzlement and a thousand other issues.
    But SF and Mr Adams are vulnerable on other issues.for example they looked extremely shakey on economic literacy.
    While it is gratifying to know that many care about Ms McConville and her family…..and a tribute to the conscience of those who raise it for reasons beyond narrow political point scoring……it is I would suggest not an issue that will really take a vote off Sinn Féin.

  • Munsterview

    Articles : some interesting reading I just came across re Yeats mindset !

  • The Word

    Where’s the beef, Chris? Hardly much more than froth to this blog. The usual suspects, even USA, the weird guy.

    Must have been those comments about Conor Murphy’s rehabilitation by the BBC in tonight’s Spotlight referred to in the last blog. The phoney war goes on.

    I suppose they promised you a united Ireland if you do as they say. I suppose you believed them.

  • Greenflag

    Drennan I suppose could be accused of being ’embedded’ in anti SF hype much like a I hesitate to use the word ‘journalist’ for Fox News in Iraq or Afghanistan .

    I’ve no problem with the Indo taking an anti republican line -that has always been their style as far back as the 1913 lockout .

    The problem with their ‘rabid ‘ approach as exemplified by Drennan’s ‘fantasy’ piece is that if persisted with they will become known as the combined Pravda (The Truth ) & Tass (News ) Irish equivalent of the former Soviet Union ‘Lie Duopoly ‘

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    I interpeted this article at the time (as probably most did) as simply an anti-SF propaganda piece when it caught my attention on Slugger (posted not suprisinigly by Pete) when I realised it was an indo story.

    Obviously very, poor jounalism from a paper with a very clear agenda. No harm done, though, except to themselves. Proof of the incompetence of those with whom you disgree is always to be welcomed.


    Regarding the paper, dont read it often but I am a big fan of Kevin Myers (with whom I heartily disagree) and Tony Ward (Rugby correspondent) – dont know if they are still there.

    But not sure if we can link its ideology all the way back to the execution of Ireland’s War Hero Number 1 – but it an iinteresting (if distrubing idea) – perhaps the Indo is an as yet undisclosed/undiscovered part of a still intact Engleze spy network stretching back since before the boul James et al encouraged their departure.

  • Nordie Northsider

    In fact, Drennan’s gaffe is even worse than that: the previous week he actually predicted that Adams would walk it. It’s easy to imagine the sequence of events. Drennan makes a statement of fact that could be understood to favour Sinn Féin, gets called into the editor’s office, is given a roasting and obediently produces more hostile copy the following week. You don’t have to be a Adams fan to despair at such goings on. It’s the opposite of journalism.

  • Pete Baker

    “I interpeted this article at the time (as probably most did) as simply an anti-SF propaganda piece when it caught my attention on Slugger (posted not suprisinigly by Pete)”

    Making it up again, Sammy Mac?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    Are you saying you didnt post the article here – if so I unreservedly apologise.

    Or are you saying you did but it is not anti-SF propaganda?

  • Pete Baker


    You claimed I posted the article here.

    Point us to that post.

    That will give you your answer.

    “Proof of the incompetence of those with whom you disgree is always to be welcomed.”


  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    I cant be arsed trawling through previous posts- if I got it wrong I apologise.

    You seem to be suggesting you didnt post it, was it not on Slugger? If you already have that information then you can share you know..

    re. “Proof of the incompetence of those with whom you disgree is always to be welcomed.”

    Cracking line.

  • Munsterview

    Mick F. These yellow and red cards etc just keep appearing to the extent that I am feeling left out, not having merited one to date !

    On a serious note if you do not explain why a particular poster got a card, could you please consider attaching a say ( 2/02/ 11.36am) tag to the card that other posters can see for themselves as to where what was deemed the offense was posted ?

    This may be instructive and change the ethos as desired. In my view the present system while penalizing ( and I am not questioning your right, or indeed the necessity to do that) is not transparent enough to bring the desired modifications to contributions.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    Without drawing attnetion to the offending post – it was simply a clear case of man playing.

  • Munsterview

    I get the Sunday Indo two or three times a year but only for a compelling reason and it is always a reminded of how God Damm awful it is and what an excuse for a newspaper it appears when compared to your average English broadsheet.

    I return to my constant bugbear of the ‘Security Correspondents’. These are wined and dined once a month at taxpayers expense by Garda HQ and behind closed doors with a fine, full course meal eaten, over wine and drink the ‘criminal and subversive’ scene is discussed for long convivial hours by the assistant Commissioner, the Head of the Special Branch or whatever other HQ Top Brass are there on the night. Those present are in no doubt as to what the ‘Garda views and line’ are on the topics of the day by the time the night is over.

    Instead of breaking news stories to do with Garda wrongdoing, the security Coors go to extra ordinary lengths to water down or suppress their respective newspapers stories reflecting badly on the Gardai as otherwise no invites, off the record briefings or all the other perks that come from being embedded in Garda HQ.

    The last editor of the Tribune was challenged on this practice during a seminar on journalism last year in Limerick University : she defended working within these parameters and readily admitted that in her paper as in others, reporters other than security correspondents broke stories hostile to the Gardai to keep the ‘Security Corrs’ access to Garda HQ sweet.

    The late Billy Flynn had extensive press contacts, yet for years he could not get the Donegall Garda corruption on to the mainstream, or indeed any other Irish media. With all the ballyhoo about corruption, that Garda and Dep Of Injustice stranglehold on the media is still intact. Consequently the Donegall Garda scandal in the most part was not an exercise in media disclosures, but rather an exercise on successful media case management by Garda HQ !

    The Indo group reporters and personnel are the section of the Irish Media most comfortable with this arrangement and this cosy interface will not likely end any time soon.

    On the wider scene the Tribune while loosing money, would have been guaranteed to have record sales during the recent election period. The paper in general would also have taken a radical, progressive stand and while reading the funeral rites of Fianna Failed, the paper would also have held Fine Gael to account and given them and their policies a close scrutiny.

    Just one big co-incident that the Info Group pulled the financial plug on the Trib, causing it to cease publication as the election was called ? Not in my book or in anyone else’s with a nonuse of political insight into the Southern Scene !