#LE14: Rising tide of populism likely to damage Fine Gael and reward Sinn Fein…

Former Fianna Fail spad Gerald Howlin’s take on the Red C Poll is worth reading in the Examiner today (if only for some useful historical context):

A new seismic shift is under way. It is far greater than any that is gone before and it is far from over.

It is still unclear if the general election of 2011 was the main shock or its precursor. Fianna Fáil’s once vast stock of political capital is irretrievably scattered. Labour’s is in the pawn shop and unlikely to be redeemed. Shatter has crystallised public discontent into an unwelcome negative focus on Fine Gael. Seven weeks out from elections, the timing could not be worse. Worse than courting political controversy, he has become a political inconvenience.

If in a political landscape already deeply disconcerted, Sinn Féin elects a significantly enhanced national network of councillors, its further advance can be virtually assured. For a Fine Gael minister for justice, a successor to Kevin O’Higgins, to provide that opportunity out of willful obduracy is truly an appalling vista. Tonight in the Dáil, Fine Gael TDs will surround and support Shatter and they will win. Fianna Fáil’s motion of no confidence will be defeated. It will be a victory that contains within it the seed of its own ultimate defeat.

LAST week, as the full force of the current crisis struck the Government, it put its biggest gun, Michael Noonan, on RTÉ’s Prime Time. A politician who, in his second coming, has successfully specialised in offering reassurance at moments of crisis, he failed to offer any reassurance at all. Sent out to save Shatter, but increasingly irritable on air, he sacrificed some of his own credibility instead.

He also notes:

Not only has Labour plummeted in a long line of opinion polls, Fine Gael is now suffering serious setbacks. Critically, Sinn Féin is for the first time positioned to become the dominant party of the Irish left.

The confirmed rise of Sinn Fein in the south will be a major achievement. But so too is the corollaries of that, which is the reduction of Labour to a rump party and the humbling of the currently might Fine Gael.

Accoding to the polls there are now four roughly equal blocks in the south: Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Independents and Sinn Fein, with Labour now relegated to the former status of the Greens.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty