Is the Republic quietly returning to the old two horse game between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael?

Two polls in the weekend can probably tell you whatever it is you want to hear. In one, Leo is pulling away from Micheál by 10 points, in the other they are only a 1 point apart with Fianna Fáil marginally ahead. In both cases, Sinn Féin are about ten points adrift.

Campaigning for the Local Government elections is probably interfering with the overall polling read on a national level. That’s something that’s can be difficult for pollsters to control since it may be affected by who the parties run at local level and how well or badly they’re doing.

And we are only at the beginning of the campaign for Local Government elections which take place on Friday, 24 May, some three weeks after our own are concluded in Northern Ireland on Thursday, 2 May.

Stepping back from the figures, Fiach Kelly has a fascinating qualitative analysis in the Irish Times over the weekend, which looks at the relative strengths of the two main leaders, in particular the battle over spin which has been ongoing since Leo took over government from Enda Kenny.

It is in that unpleasant yet essential arena of politics that Micheál Martin has achieved his most notable success of this Dáil. Manoeuvring, calculating, spinning, communicating, positioning, attacking – the areas of politics voters say they dislike and politicians profess, with a straight face, to agree with them.

Identifying the likely enemy early, Martin and his party set to work on defining Leo Varadkar in the minds of voters before Varadkar had a chance to define himself.

He continues:

…what is remarkable is how Fianna Fáil’s attacks have seeped into the public consciousness. Its success in painting Varadkar as a creature of spin has been a deliberately planned and well executed triumph of spin itself.


Fianna Fáil TDs cannot quite believe their luck. Fine Gael deputies wait: both for the push back against the Fianna Fáil definition of Varadkar, and for Varadkar to define himself and explain why voters should give him and Fine Gael another term.

Perhaps the Taoiseach is playing a patient game of rope-a-dope, keeping it all in reserve for a general election. But by then it could be too late; the damage may be done. With this Government and the confidence and supply deal in their final months, the time for holding fire may have passed.

But with Brexit rumbling on until the Autumn Leo is somewhat locked in to a government which is experiencing fairly common middle aged administration, over its late response to housing and huge budgetary issues in Health.

And Martin has closed the door on FF triggering an election before the end of the year.

Perhaps southern politics (at least in the way it is played out in the press) is returning to the old two horse game between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Ominously two of the most effective independent left Dáil voices (Clare Daly and Mick Wallace) are running for the European Parliament.


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