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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 27, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

    Fianna Fail… has the media Written Off more than it could chew

    Harry McGee

    If you tune in to any post-match interview on the Sunday Game this year, you’ll find a manager or player coming out with the Socratean observation that the team came good despite the fact that the”the media wrote us off”.

    It’s classic underdog psychology, and clichéd beyond existence in the GAA (and most sports in Ireland), thanks to the sycophantic soft-core sucky-ups and lickspittles  who constitute some of the broadcast media. What really irks me is that more often than not the team that is saying it was “written off” was no such thing. We have heard that claptrap from the likes of Kerry, Tyrone, Tipp and Cork (hurlers).

    It’s obvious where this metaphor is going.

    Have Fianna Fail been written off a little too much?

    Is the party’s fortunes undergoing a mini revival? Are people getting sick of what Cowen mocks as the bad news brigade?

    There will be a spate of opinion polls out this weekend and my guess is that they will still show a pretty dismal picture for Fianna Fail. However, I think that the pendulum has swung and that the true vote for Fianna Fail, after years of being overstated in polls, is now being understated.

    Fine Gael are certainly going to do well and its vote will be above 30 per cent. However, Labour will probably remain in the high teens with Fianna Fail in the mid 20s (representing its core).

    If that situation pertains, the party will be able to salvage something from the three elections, and claim some kind of victory.

    1. The party reached a nadir in the 2004 local elections. But that’s a bottomless pit. It will lose more seats and must be prepared to take a hit. However, it can claim some kind of solace if it limits its losses to manageable numbers.

    2. On a lower percentage of the vote, it will still retain three out of four Euro seats. The problem is Dublin. Fianna Fail’s stock is much lower there. Yet if the constituency had reamined a four-seater Eoin Ryan would have probably retained his seat. Remember, that in 2004, Fianna Fail only received 23 per cent of the overall vote in the capital. Mary Lou McDonald was on 14.5 per cent, which is exactly the same as her current support level in The Irish Times poll. In point of fact, Labour’s support levels - as things stand – remain unchanged. But can Eoin Ryan pull it out of the bag? McDonald will get the vast bulk of Joe Higgins and Patricia McKenna’s transfers (a ration of five or six to one, in my view), while Ryan will be dependent on Gay Mitchell’s surplus (if he has one) and Eibhlin Byrne. Ryan can’t really rely on Deirdre de Búrca either. At present FF has 16 per cent. Therefore, it needs an additional six or seven per cent more first preference between the two candidates if Ryan is to have any chance. That’s too big an ask.

     3. Fine Gael may not necessarily win both byelections. The more time passes in Dublin Central, the stronger Maureen O’Sullivan looks. The Gregory legacy is massive. Paschal Donoghue needs Maurice Ahern to stay in the race until the end (ie be the runner-up) because his transfers, if eliminated, will flow away from Fine Gael. There’s less ambiguity about Dublin South. George Lee’s margin may not be as big as originally thought but it will still be substantial.

    4. Labour’s big push for more European seats may be thwarted. Nessa Childers may be pipped by John Paul Phelan. Kathy Sinnott may see off the challenge of Alan Kelly. Labour had a very good election in Dublin in 2004. If things go against it in the European elections, it will need to emerge strongly outside Dublin, or else it will be grasping a little for tangibles.

    Of course, Fianna Fail is going to take a hit. But a couple of weeks ago people (and the punditocracy) were talking about devastation and meltdown and all the rest. But if the party can take consolation, can show it has survived the blows, then it can claim some kind of validation.

    And what’s victory for the Greens? If they can limit the losses of their real councillors (ie members of county councils and city councils) so they still retain at least 10 councillors (they have 15 at present).

    • Harry says:

      An afterthrought: Dublin Central is going to be impossible to call. Could we get a Dermot Fitzpatrick/Nicky Kehoe outcome with three or possibly four candidates within a hair’s breadth of each other?

    • Siobhan says:

      “the sycophantic soft-core sucky-ups and lickspittles who constitute some of the broadcast media”: I love your tautologies Harry, and this one nicely conveys all your contempt for that particular group. I’ll have a go: if those corrupt spineless crooks and money-grabbers get 20% next Friday as you predict, I’m leaving the country.

    • Peter B says:

      I honestly think that Irish democracy is in trouble and that FF need to be removed from power. I’m not saying the alternatives will do any better, but we really need a change if for no other reason but to prove there is an alternative and we still have an operating democracy.

    • Maurice O'Leary says:

      While the other elections are high-profile, it is the local elections that are crucial.

      The greater the margin that FG has over FF in councillors, the shorter the life-span of this government. If FG are 50-100 seats ahead, the Government will fall in the autumn as it can have no claim to any mandate to continue.

    • Ray D says:

      Polls overestimate the FF vote in Dublin and in Leinster. FF will do well to get even 10% in Dublin and will also lose Leinster seat.

    • Harry Leech says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more Harry; FF have been around the block a few times and have more tricks up their sleeves than all the others combined. See below for a prime example:


      It’s no coincidence that neither FG or Labour have ever managed to produce a ruthless De Valera, Haughey, or Ahern style leader. Bless them, they don’t seem to have the stomach for it (yet.)

      As for Dublin Central, I don’t think we’ll know until the bitter end how this one turns out.

      Dublin Central is probably one of the only areas that could return a FF seat under a PR system, solely becaue there’s an Ahern involved and the Drumcondra mafia are as good as it gets when it comes to getting out the party faithful.

      The Gregory candidate Maureen Sullivan cannot be written off, especially as it is Tony Gregory’s seat that is being filled, and Paschal Donohoe came close to pipping Ahern’s running-mate at the last general election and has been one of the few to perform in the Seanad (for whomever watches it.)

      Elections: You’ve got to love them…

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