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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 13, 2009 @ 9:03 am

    Opinion Poll

    Harry McGee

    I’m still reeling from the results of the opinion poll. It was jaw-dropping, eye-brow arching and whatever you are having yourself. Fianna Fail’s fall from grace has been more spectacular than any other government in this corner of the world, save for Iceland.

    Their figures in November were abysmal. But it’s now clear that anger over the medical cards wasn’t the sole or principal cause.

    This is a meltdown. It’s more than public servants venting their anger. This is the Government that was elected in 2007 on the basisi it could best manage the economy and the economy is unravelling before our  eyes.

    The anger runs deeper than that. I suspect people now believe that they were wrong to reward Fianna Fail  in 2007, that the party should have gone out of power then. Brian Cowen has gone almost literally (if you follow the mathematics of it) from hero to zero in the space of six months. His speech last week make no impression. This poll was also sampled before Brian Lenihan got into bother this week. So the sampling was taken at the best possible moment for FF in the last month. Which makes it even worse! And like the medical cards in November, it’s more than angry public servants venting against the Government. There’s a more fundamental shift at play here.

    Fine Gael may be a bit disappointed. But not Labour. What a surge! Ten points. Eamon Gilmore has done very well as leader and the party is seen – in the minds of many – as one that could effect change. Having said that, there’s a lot of validity in Fionnan Sheahan’s argument last week that it hasn’t presented a real thought-through alternative and has been playing the populist card. As it is entitled to in opposition.

    The Greens look snookered. On the face of it 4 per cent  isn’t too bad. Until you look at the figures in Dublin, Galway, Cork and realise it’s not much abouve 4 per cent there either. That’s all seats lost  in an election. It’s PD territory.

    Is this the beginning of a permanent regime-change or just a temporary dose of misery for Fianna Fail? Are we genuinely looking at a changed landscape.

    • Brian Hagan says:

      I am not surprised at the collapse in FF support given what I have heard from my social outings over the last 2 months. It is about time FF got a severe dose of reality and maybe (but I am not hopeful: old dog , new tricks etc) they might just learn from it. Either way they will be decimated in the upcoming local elections and any would-be FF or Green councillor should plan for the election after the next one.
      I am totally surprised that there has been no talk of a Govt of National Unity with the likes of the Richard Bruton, Eamon Gilmore in positions of authority. I would even look at the world outside the Oireachtas for people with leadership skills and commitment to lead us out of this mess of Cowen’s making over the last 5 years. Any suitable people could be drafted into the Senate and given Ministerial responsibility in this way although some of the old codgers in the Senate who are Taoiseach appointees would have to be removed/ resign.

      We are in an emergency situation despite the inaction by the Govt so we need a Govt of unity before we see civil disturbance gaining a foothold.

    • what does this government expect, a pat on the head for collapsing the country? The reality is as an economy we are facing extinction and our political leaders resemble stunned dinnosaurs looking into the abyss.

      The country is expecting leadership from those they elected in 2007.

      Radical thinking and a new departure is now required. Costs base has to be reduced as a matter of urgency in order to restore competiveness. Remove all taxes on enterprise, such as commercial rates, employer’s share of the employee’s PRSI, Allow self employed PRSI entitle them to draw on their contributions in the event of their business failing, reduce the minimum pay to €5.00, reduce bank holidays from nine down to five. This is what I would call a stimulus programme to protect existing small businesses. Ignore this type of advice and within months we will see a collapse of the commercial fabric of every town in Ireland.

    • Paul O' Sullivan says:


      Personally, I had no physical reaction expressing surprise at the poll. Surely, after all that has been, gone and still remains any other result would have been more shocking.

      As for the consequences for FF, ask yourself what they could do, given the conditions and their capabilities, to restore public confidence.

      According to Mary O’ Rourke (today’s Irish Times) Government should be applauded for merely taking decisions, regardless of their quality -“When you are elected and there are hard decisions to be taken, you take them and that’s what we’re doing…there will be more unpopular ones”.

      FF don’t give the public enough credit.

      The blatancy of their policy to make taxpayers pay for past errors, oversights and lack of foresight of the ‘political class’ is such that even the most politically uninterested have seen what has occurred. No amount of decision-making can provide camouflage.


    • Suzy says:

      After being gobsmacked by the poll I then faced into a column by John Waters on how Brian Cowen fills our need for a strong father figure.

      I assume that this was written without a peek at the polls. I wonder if he also thinks that Joan Burton’s dissection of government ineptitude is motherhood and apple pie or just an aunt pointing her finger at us.

      Lisbon data in tomorrow’s paper I presume? Or maybe some questions on bankers’ and TD’s and allowances and pensions …

    • Eoin says:

      As you said, going on these results the Greens will have cause for concern. So, both they and Fianna Fáil will batten down the hatches and hope to ride out a couple of awful years, including the local and European elections, and hope to recover somewhat before the next general election. Hard to see a government remaining stable for long in this kind of climate, though.

    • Patrick Hennessy says:

      I am not surprised about FF nosediving but the Labour gain also speaks volumes about Fine Gael. FF’s ability to stay in power over the past years is due to the fact that Fine Gael have been downhill all the way since Garret FitzGerald. Even if they replaced Enda Kenny with Richard Bruton it would be a start, but at present there lack of ability to run a horses and carriages through an inept FF consigns them to the dustbin of history. Does anyone know their alternative strategies to solving the crisis given that FF have failed? I have heard no coherent holistic FG framework explaining how they would solve this crisis. And so the baton goes to Labour. Fair dues to Eamon Gilmore but he needs to add political heavyweights to his party if he wants to win an election.

      Patrick Hennessy


    • Green Ink says:

      “His speech last week make no impression.”
      What impression was it supposed to make? Cowen has a proven track record of ineptitude by now, and no amount of cloying journalistic gloss is going to convert him into an Obama-like figure at this stage. I’m looking at you here Harry.

    • Alex says:

      The poll was no surprise really at all…. Will gov pay attention tho that’s what I’m wondering?

      They obviously expected a dip in the poll and listening to some of their comments this morning they are taking rather a casual view of them with quotes such as “they should enjoy it while they can” when referring to Labour and the likes being up in the polls etc…


    • Betterworld Now says:


      The poll was no surprise to me – in fact I have been expecting the labour onslaught for 12 months now.

      I wrote to Gilmore in November and said that the way to get over the media questioning over which of the larger parties he would hitch his party to was to simply say that he would not serve in a government that he was not the Taoiseach of. Game on.

      He has ALMOST said that twice on the radio, and seems to be biding his time to express what is inevitable. It won’t be long now…

      When he does, expect his poll ratings will go into orbit. You ain’t seen nothin yet!

      (Whether he is the right man for the job or not is another question – but we’re not exactly spoilt for choice now, are we? I can’t see anyone else imposing a maximum wage.)

      And if the editor of the Irish Times allowed to be published even some of the stinging critique of neoliberalism that it has received, there might be less chance of its political correspondents being ambushed by public opinion.

    • Harry says:

      A couple of very interesting trends. Fine Gael picked up soft FF votes in November but Labour seem to be picking up more hardened FFers, who could not stomach swithcing to FG and see a little of theFF DNA in Gilmore and his party.
      Labour has also established itself firmly as the predominant party of the middle classes and the more prosperous (and that includes a lot of the public services).
      Its party handlers adopted Sinn Fein tactics this morning. Who was standing at Gilmore shoulders at the press conference on the plinth at Leinster House? None other than Alex White who is likely to be the Labour Party TD for Dublin South after the by-electon in June.
      Fianna Fail people were saying today that the adjustments don’t favour the party. In other words when its stock is falling its support is not over-stated by as much as when it was riding the crest of the wave (people then said they supported FF even though they eventually voted elsewhere).
      And there is also huge division among the public about which sector has been hit hardest – public sector or private sector workers. I would have thought that that was inarguable – if you lost your job it’s curtains; if you have to pay a pension levy there is terrible pain, but it is relative.
      Thanks for the interesting comments by the way

    • Brian Boru says:

      There is something terribly ironic about Labour being strongest with the upper-classes and upper-middle-classes. In my humble opinion this is key to understanding why they are so out of touch with the electorate on asylum and immigration. When Pat Rabbitte put his head above the parapets in 2006 to call for tighter controls on the new EU member states in Eastern Europe, you could hear a pin drop in the party. Normal service seems to have resumed, with Rabbitte, in the Committee Stage of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, seeking to ensure that those claiming to have been trafficked into the State get temporary visas to remain in the country. The provisions of the Bill as it stands leave the granting of such visas to the discretion of the Gardai, in return for cooperation by the claimant in the prosecution of the alleged-traffickers. Rabbitte expressed the view that such a concession should be made even if the claimant refuses to cooperate with the Gardai. Minister Ahern was correct to reject such a proposal, but as a voter from a FF-voting background I am concerned what we may be in store for if Labour get into govt in terms of an excessively liberal immigration-policy should Labour enter govt – especially (God help us) – as the largest party of govt. Regarding what I said at the start of this comment – it is easy for wealthier voters to be generous with other peoples’ jobs. They are not at the coldface of competition for low-skilled labour with migrant-labour, tending to be derived from the developing-world and Eastern Europe and therefore more docile with respect to demanding their legal-rights under labour-law. While opposed to racism, I am also opposed to what I call “reverse-racism”, which subordinates the needs of the Irish people to those of foreign-nationals. My aunt would probably fit the category who might be persuaded to vote Labour. She constantly brings up the international experience of the Irish emigrating around the world, while forgetting they often got a hard time and it was not always the rosy welcome it has sometimes been portrayed as.

      On the wider question of the poll, I find myself sympathising with the 1/3rd who now say they would vote FG were an election held today. My reasoning is a resentment on my part at what I consider the modern-day aristocracy of the wellhelled public-sector mandarins and managers, some of them surplus to requirements especially in the HSE middle-management. They behave like children when they don’t get what they want, throwing their toys around the pram like a spoilt child. In putting down a Dail motion against the pension-levy, Labour – in a strange inversion of Socialism’s supposed concern for the working-class – are largely promoting a regressive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich and comfortably-off. But then, maybe that shouldn’t surprise us too much. After all – aren’t Labour TDs largely among the better-off? I call it champagne-socialism – preaching in the name of socialism and social-justice on the one hand, while living the good life on the other. To my mind, in championing an end to barriers-to-entry in our electricity and public-transport sectors, FG are more deserving of the plaudits for standing up for the working-classes, who are more vulnerable to the crippling charges consequent on the protection of the public-sector monopolies so beloved of Labour and FF.

    • ANON says:

      I really don’t know how some of the commentators here can say that Fine Gael has not offered a viable alternative…. they have.. They offered a different budget, different reforms.. Richard Bruton and Enda Kenny have been harping on about government fiances and complacency regarding those.. but did Bertie or Brian listen??? No is the short answer.. Are the two Brians listening now… No… is again the answer, there is no hope when FF cannot even listen to the largest party in opposition.

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