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.
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.