#GE Week 2: “Bogged down in heavy, substantive but important issues…”

Into week two, and the Red C poll is welcome for Sinn Fein in a week when the media flipped from eating out of their hand on ‘the fiscal space’ to eating them alive over an outbreak of violence between two Dublin crime families.

Frankly it’s been hard to comment further with any consistency or coherence despite the tumult of talk on TV, radio and podcasts.

As Martina Fitzgerald put in on Friday’s Morning Ireland up until last Thursday’s debate the southern election “had been bogged down in heavy, substantive but important  issues”.

One interesting contrast is the apparent centrality of policy in most debates between the politicians and the centrality of the polls in the debates amongst the commentariat. Hardly surprising I suppose.

Many of the headline issues the parties are promising are remarkably similar, and often only online wonks or The Journal’s fact check team have the patience to check the underlying value of any pledges made.

Whole rafts of policy shifts have been underway particularly inside the two main opposition parties Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail which mean the government is facing a very different set of challenges to that of 2011.

Old polarities of politics are gone in Ireland just as they are fading in Britain and the rest of the democratic world. The rise of a multiplicity of party and independent voices is particularly striking.

The voice of local/small party candidates often get a cut through that the bigger parties in desperate competition with one, two or three other rivals struggle for.

For the commentariat the polling provides clarity if not certainty.  Giving latitude for the complexity of multi member constituencies, it seems to outline a viable ‘box’ within which the outcome is likely to fall.

The variations are huge, and underexplored. Noel Whelan argued on Friday, if Fianna Fail refuse to step  into the breach (unless they get ahead of FG they will), we could be in for another election as early as May.

Not that anyone will have the cash to run another time: be it May or November. But the seating arrangements and any marked shift in power of voice in the coming Dail will substantially affect what unfolds thereafter.

That could trigger a change in the narrative. A re-run may see far greater clarity around the “heavy, substantive but important  issues” that take so much air time (and get so little consideration) now.