As #GE16 motors on we will be taking a look behind the scenes to keep you informed of the latest gossip from the front lines. If you have views or news from your constituency then email [email protected] and keep us posted.
The Sinn Fein vote has proven itself to be resilient in opinion polls over the last few years. However it appears there have been some scary moments for the party in the last week. The Gangland killings in Dublin came at a bad time for the party as it found itself answering questions about its long stated opposition to the Special Criminal Court. This is not the kind of thing Gerry Adams wanted to be talking about but the media smelt blood and kept the focus on him. The party quickly sensed the problem and have got Gerry back on track by saying the abolition of the Special Criminal Court is not a priority. This reflects an internal discussion where the party handlers felt that it was impossible to make the argument during an election and at the current time. The party was genuinely worried that this could damage it. There is also some debate internally now beginning as to the wisdom of the long held position. Some suggest that as the IRA is no longer active the time has come to differentiate between legitimate republican activists of the past and ordinary gangland criminals. Some feel that perhaps SF does not have to defend the rights of criminals in relation to the court and that its position only relates to what they term as the war of the past. From what we hear though this view is still a minority.
Excitement continues in Roscommon. FG candidate Maura Hopkins faces a big battle with some in the party feeling she may be losing ground on Denis Naughten. The problem is that Naughten has put in a few fairly hefty media performances and Hopkins, while generally liked, will need to land a few blows to close the gap. All that said, FG is inclined to believe that the mess in FF may well open the door for them. Civil war is still the order of the day on the ground for Fianna Fail and Shane Curran’s recent performance on the RTE, Drivetime debate hasn’t inspired confidence as he seemed to misread the mood completely. Questions over his finances are still be thrown around on the ground with Curran’s assertion that his lack of a Tax Clearance Certificate being down to an artist’s exemption on his book raising a few eyebrows.
Speaking of Fianna Fail it’s all go for them in Dublin Bay North where Sean Haughey is believed to be opening a gap on his running mate Deirdre Heney. Haughey seems to have it the ground running but if FF is to take a seat here then it needs one candidate to be well ahead of the other and even split could spell disaster for the party as polls are showing them as low as single figures in Dublin.
The Health service is quietly gaining traction as an issue much to the worry of FG. In 2011 James Reilly led the way with his big idea for Health and this was front and centre of the campaign. 5 years on the service is in a bigger mess than ever and FG doesn’t really want it on the agenda of this election. However, TDs say it’s coming up on the doors with increasing frequency. The pressure will be on Leo Varadkar to deliver something for them to offer the people.
The Independent’s are facing the age old problem. TDs are doing lots of canvassing, organising and work on the ground but this leaves them thin at a national level for press conferences, policy announcements and other big ideas that attract media attention. Finian McGrath did lead the way in the Oireachtas Justice committee on a response to gangland crime. He focussed on the negative impacts this had on communities around Dublin, perhaps this is an issue they may yet come to lead on?