• -
  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 30, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    Latest Poll . . . Joe Higgins, MEP?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Campaigns matter. I always cite the example of John Major running for re-election as British Prime Minister in 1992. Almost universally written-off, he famously got out his soapbox and went on the hustings in a successful fight to stay in power.

    joe-higgins.jpg

    Well if they won’t have me in Leinster House, I’ll bloody go to Strasbourg (Photograph by Frank Miller)

    It has to be said the Brian Cowen does not evoke the spirit of John Major as he makes his way around the country in support of Fianna Fáil election candidates. You get the distinct impression he would rather be somewhere else. He does not look as if he’s enjoying the job: under present circumstances perhaps not many would (although some politicians can be popular in adversity).

    Today’s Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll results, based on mock ballot-papers, tell an interesting story. Labour’s Nessa Childers is up 4% to 21% in Ireland East/Leinster so it can safely be said that retiring Fine Gael MEP Avril Doyle’s attack on her as a “Foxrock Girl” has backfired. The Labour candidate floundered in a radio debate on Agriculture but that doesn’t seem to have hurt her either, despite the number of farming families in this constituency. Maybe the moral of the story is: negative campaigning doesn’t work in Ireland these days. Well, it didn’t in this case.

    In Dublin, the battle for the last seat is wide open. Former Socialist TD Joe Higgins, who lost his Dáil seat in 2007,  has emerged as a contender (up two points to 9%), with Fianna Fáil’s Eoin Ryan (down two to 9%) and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald (down three to 11%) losing some support.

    Ryan has suffered from his low visibility during his term of office since 2004. The European Parliament is a hard sell, as any journalist who has covered it will tell you, but you have to put yourself out there and grab a few headlines, as Kathy Sinnott in Ireland South/Munster tends to do. Otherwise folk conclude, fairly or otherwise, that you are not as active as you should be.

    Mary Lou McDonald has not had a good campaign so far. She has been equivocal at press conferences on the issue of running for the Dáil in the next general election. Other politicians have been swearing blind that they are committed to Europe, come what may, but don’t be too surprised if a few of them announce at the time of the “General” that, “in response to a special plea from party colleagues and constituents, I have reluctantly changed my mind”. It’s shockingly cynical, of course, but that’s politics.

    Having gone down from 14% to 11%, Ms McDonald desperately needs to halt the decline in her support. Otherwise, Mr Higgins will be ahead of her and she will be delivering transfers to him, instead of the other way round. Mr Ryan will be hoping for a good transfer from his party colleague, Lord Mayor Eibhlín Byrne, but she is still stuck on 5%. This looks like being an exciting count!

    Green Senator Deirdre de Búrca, still on 6%, will no doubt be pleased that her arch-rival, former Green MEP and now Independent candidate, Patricia McKenna, has gone down from 8% to 5%. If Ms McKenna were to beat Ms de Búrca, it would be a serious humiliation for the Greens.

    Dublin is toxic for Fianna Fáil these days. TDs elected for the party in the “Pale” will be getting increasingly anxious about their political futures. Will they decide that it’s time to try a new leader? Would it make any difference as long as the economy was in its current state?

    Green Senator Dan Boyle, despite making widely-publicised comments about needing to review the Programme for Government and generally hinting that the Greens might jump ship, remains static at 3%. This political game is frustrating at times for the players. 

    No doubt their critics and opponents are deriving some amusement at the thought of the Greens as passengers on the Titanic, peering into the mist for a lifeboat that may not be there. I keep asking Enda Kenny if he would consider forming an alternative government from the existing Dáil arithmetic but he keeps pointing to a general election. Forming another government with Sinn Féin would still be a bit much for the Fine Gael faithful but it has to be a tempting prospect to gain power without the fuss and expense and risk of a general election. That’s what John Bruton did in 1994.

    There will be surprise in some quarters that Declan Ganley of Libertas is still on 9% in North-West (formerly Connacht-Ulster) and the figures suggest that the three seats will go to Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher (FF, 20% +1), Marian Harkin (Independent, 19% + 1)) and Jim Higgins (FG, 17% -3)). There is still a school of thought that believes Ganley’s support is “subterranean” and that he could still spring a surprise, but there is no evidence in this poll to back up that theory. On a visit to Counties Galway and Roscommon this week, I was surprised to see so few Ganley posters, given his resources. He has said he won’t campaign on Lisbon Two if he doesn’t win a seat: the voters of North-West could be  holding history in their hands.

    In Ireland South/Munster, the aforementioned Kathy Sinnott (14% +2) looks like holding off the challenge from Labour’s Senator Alan Kelly (12% -1) and Sinn Féin’s Toiréasa Ferris (10% -2) and Fine Gael Substitute MEP Colm Burke (10%, no change). As expected, the GAA connection has made Seán Kelly the frontrunner for FG. Get out that hurley, Colm!

    For more on the poll, click here.

    • Niall says:

      “He has said he won’t campaign on Lisbon Two if he doesn’t win a seat: the voters of North-West could be holding history in their hands.”

      Ganley might not be Libertas’s public face of the next anti-Lisbon campaign, but make no mistake, he’ll campaign. We may just end up with Simons or McGuirk popping up on panels where once the chairman sat.

    • Brian Boru says:

      “There will be surprise in some quarters that Declan Ganley of Libertas is still on 9% in North-West (formerly Connacht-Ulster) and the figures suggest that the three seats will go to Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher (FF, 20% +1), Marian Harkin (Independent, 19% + 1)) and Jim Higgins (FG, 17% -3)). There is still a school of thought that believes Ganley’s support is “subterranean” and that he could still spring a surprise, but there is no evidence in this poll to back up that theory. On a visit to Counties Galway and Roscommon this week, I was surprised to see so few Ganley posters, given his resources. He has said he won’t campaign on Lisbon Two if he doesn’t win a seat: the voters of North-West could be holding history in their hands.”

      The nature of subterraneanism is the difficulty in determining it. But a straw in the wind appears in today’s Sunday Business Post, which has Libertas on 4% nationally and Ganley in with what Richard Colwell (Red C) calls “a shout to take a seat in the North West”. Based on information from a source in the know, called Journo, on politics.ie last night, I think that his predictions of what would be revealed of the poll, e.g., the absence of regional breakdowns, and the story on Ganley’s attitude to neutrality (from an interview with Bruce Arnold) deserve some credibility. Journo claims that in the Red C poll, support for Ganley has soared to 16% in Northwest. Now bringing us back to the question of whether support is “subterranean”, might I suggest the reason might have to do with differences in methodologies, with the Red C polls being undertaken by telephone, which arguably is more likely to pick up voters reluctant to admit to a preference. Have you forgotten Dana’s upset-victory in Connaught-Ulster in 1999, against all the evidence to the contrary (Pearse Doherty was polled on 15%)? And it’s not as if we haven’t seen this before in national elections too – notably with regard to Fine Gael voters who were traditionally more reluctant to admit to so intending to vote. Indeed, does not TNS-MRBI “readjust” to take account of the traditional over-representation of the FF vote and under-representation of the FG vote? Because I think if Ganley gets in, a similar model may be required for Libertas as well.

    • Deaglán says:

      If, as you suggest, Ganley pulls off a surprise, it will be one of the stories of the election. We already know that FF are going to be hit badly in percentage terms, that Dublin is a cold house for the Soldiers of Destiny, that FG are virtually certain to lose one in Ireland East and that Sean Kelly will probably take the FG seat in South. But the figures suggest Declan G. has a mountain to climb. This idea that people don’t admit to pollsters that they support certain, shall we say, unfashionable, parties is an interesting one. Have any studies been done on the topic, I wonder?

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Deaglán, there was an awful lot of research done post-1992 in the UK when the polls didn’t catch the Tory fightback at all. The thing in North-West is that it is highly likely that the broad Sinn Féin vote there will transfer to Ganley, while some of the SF Donegal vote will go to Pat the Cope. And don’t be astounded, in a straight choice between Ganley and Pat the Cope, if Fine Gael transfers don’t head to Fianna Fáil despite the plea from FF that pro-Lisbon parties should stick together. That was a dog-whistle for transfers from Labour and FG to Pat if ever I heard one.

      This weekend is like a political double All-Ireland and Six Nations finale weekend all in one. The dog will be thrown a steak and a bucket of fresh water at 9am Saturday and it will be hunting for its own food come 11pm Sunday night.

    • Deaglán says:

      Very folksy, Dan! Not sure anyone can afford a “shteak” these days, though.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I’m telling the dog it’s a steak, but truth be told (and don’t let on if you see him) it will be a lump of corned beef I got from the butcher, ‘cos it’s close to going off.

    • Deaglán says:

      Sounds a bit like what the politicians are palming off on the people, Dan. We’re being sold a pup!

    • JR says:

      Fair play to Joe, doesn’t have financial backing like the rest of them.

      The main thing for all Fine Gael and Labour supporters though is their second vote. its a direct choice between Mary Lou, Ryan, and Joe.

      While Ryan will pick up most of running-mate Eibhlín Byrne’s 5%, bringing him up to 15% or so, Mary Lou won’t get a whole lot of 2nd prefs from Mitchell – dunno about Proinsias. Reckon Joe will turn out to be everyone’s 2nd-favourite politician. He needs to get message to FG supporters that it’s him, or the other two that they hate.

    • Reddan says:

      With some amusement I saw how the Socialist Party has a policy for this state to rejoin Great Britain.

      It’s on their website.

      We would have to vote for it but a Socialist Party govt. would argue for it and would put that question to the people of Dublin and southern Ireland.

      Is a vote for Joe a vote for London? Do the people of Dublin know this?

    • JR says:

      Can you link that, Reddan, please? Ta

    • Reddan says:

      http://www.socialistpartyni.net/

      You’ll know you are on the right page when you see a big Vote Joe for Europe ad on the right. Scroll down to the N.Ireland policy piece and then read:

      The national problem is intractable and insoluble on the basis of capitalism. We are for a socialist solution – working-class unity to bring about a socialist Ireland as a free and voluntary part of a socialist federation of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales …

      But that’s the North of Ireland site you might say Well if you read the first paragraph you will see that the Socialist Party is all-Ireland – one and the same.

      Vote for Joe and let’s get the chance for the whole island to join England once again in a union.

      It worked a treat the last time. Dublin could be the second city of the empire again. Oh Joy!!

    • Brian Boru says:

      I’m sorry JR but you are wrong on transfers. In 2007, only 49% of FF transfers went to another FF candidate. Higgins, McKenna and Simons will transfer to Mary Lou McDonald on ideological/anti-Lisbon or gender grounds. Ryan is now fifth in Paddy Power odds behind MLM and Joe Higgins. Indeed, some of Byrne’s transfers will go to MLM on gender-grounds. Running two candidates was a mistake.

    • JR says:

      Happy to be wrong about Ryan’s transfers, that leaves him at 12 or so and puts him out of the running. Not the major issue for me though… I would see MLM transferring to Higgins more so than Higgins to MLM. The fact is though that these are minuscule in comparison to what Proinsias and most importantly Mitchell will transfer after reaching quota. FG voters won’t go MLM. Some will go Ryan on pro-Europe, but more will go to Joe on the basis of wanting to see FF get stuffed, and the seeming inherent hatred for SF. Proinsias’s transfers are hard to call, for me… what was the last time round like? The left-wing transfer is possible, but I’m not convinced that the majority of his voters vote for him on a left-wing basis. You’re right on the de Burca, McKenna transfers playin into MLM’s hands. Thats 10% max or so … all said, some run up for that 3rd seat

    • Brian Boru says:

      “Proinsias’s transfers are hard to call, for me… what was the last time round like?”.

      Almost none of his transfers went to FF last time. Around 25% of them went to McDonald and 75% to McKenna in 2004.

    • Brian Boru says:

      BTW, some would also have gone to Higgins but didn’t because he was eliminated by then.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Brian, there were no transfers from De Rossa last time, he was elected by Bacik’s transfers and that left MLM ahead of McKenna


Search Politics