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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 1, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    Up in the Polls and Up in the Air

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The latest Sunday Business Post poll as well as the last poll in The Irish Times show a modest revival in Fianna Fail’s standing with the public. Clearly they will be hoping to hang in for as long as possible and stave off the general election until they are in a position to win or at least emerge with only minimal damage.It’s a challenge for the Opposition parties to maintain their momentum. Not an easy task when Government has all the power and therefore holds most of the aces.

    I have been reading Bertie Ahern’s account of the Reynolds-Spring government of 1992-94. The relationship between the two party leaders at that time was such that a  break-up was more or less inevitable.

    The interaction between Cowen and Gormley and between FF and the Greens seems rather better, on the surface.  There was an interesting story by Eamon Keane in the Sunday Independent yesterday where he suggested Dan Boyle had threatened to resign over the banking inquiry. Dan is a Senator and not in Cabinet (although he could be) but if  he quit it would  have had a destabilising effect. (Yes, yes, I  know the cynics will dismiss Dan as a Paper Tiger who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk: the same cynics should form their  own party, it would be the biggest of the lot.)

    Covering the interminable talks in the North must be beyond tedium for the journalists involved. There is such a thing as prolonging the dramatic tension for too long. If and when there is a deal, will anyone care or notice at that stage?

    Aficionados of political film-making should check out Up in the Air and Precious. The former is something of a star vehicle for George Clooney but interesting in its way as a reflection of the  unemployment surge in the US. Precious is a startling portrayal of the life of a group of people (you could hardly call them a family) in the Harlem ghetto in New York City. Quite searing at times. I’m looking forward to seeing Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, on Nelson Mandela.  We had a good lively discussion on the Blog about Eastwood’s last movie, remember?

    • Paul9162 says:

      Ahern (B) has been the greatest disaster than has befallen this country since independence, voted in by a very stupid electorate with no understanding of human nature excepting looking out for their own pockets – nevertheless Aherns coalition agreements have never been properly analysed by the Political media nor has this element of the media “written” the agreement out, if it had been attempted the electorate may have looked upon FF differently, but too many FF’s are journalists or at least afraid to write honestly about them. A pity and the country suffers badly for this.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      As if there needed to be any incentive to see a film starring George Clooney… ‘Invictus’ sounds good but Precious ‘thanks but no thanks’…too much like Jerry Springer/Reality TV…

    • robespierre says:

      I have seen Invictus Deaglán, definitely a case where my memory of the real thing is much more special than this contrived trite (you mean tripe? Deaglán) I am a huge Eastwood fan and enjoyed Gran Torino and his two recent World War Two films.

      Damon is just far too small physically to play Pienaar – he lacks credibility. Like with the deeply flawed Mo Mowlam last night (reversing the Adams / McGuinness height ratio is discombobulating) the dialogue is often simplistic, stilted exposition rather actual dialogue rendering the cast as 2-d characterisations at best.

      The Greens will stay the course – the alternative is slaughter.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:


      Any theories on the marked differences in the two polls taken?

    • AJ says:

      Theres no doubt that Fianna Fail and the Greens are trying to hang on in government as long as possible.
      Even at 27% as the SBP poll suggested, Fianna Fail will lose at least 20 seats. This not just with a reduced first preference rate, but a more polarised electorate less likely to transfer to Fianna Fail as they did in Berties time.

      One other little thing that certainly hasn’t been done in the polls (in the public domain anyhow) is to ask the ‘if there was an election in the morning who would you vote for?’ question three times.
      1st time -Enda Kenny led Fine Gael
      2nd time -Richard Bruton led Fine Gael
      3rd time -George Lee led Fine Gael

      To a degree it would establish or not the impression that Enda Kennys leadership is holding Fine Gael back in the polls.
      might sell a few papers too!

    • Deaglán says:

      I was reporting from the North during the Mo Mowlam era. The drama documentary was quite accurate in many ways. Julie Walters always very good.

    • robespierre says:

      The “Mo” drama may have been accurate but the dialogue was really dreadful – what is it with screenwriters who are incapble of developing a narrative without resorting to exposition.

      It wrote the Irish government completely out of the picture. You want an example of good dialogue where there is little or no exposition – Hunger or Resurrection Man which was hugely under-rated.

      I think Resurrection Man is possibly the best film I have seen on the Difficulties or whatever euphemism it is that they use up there.

      As to the FG polls and balkanising preferences it is mischievous. No FG leader since Garret got really good ratings in opposition. Dukes, Noonan and Bruton all went up a little and then bombed. Changing the leader (and I find Kenny less than inspiring) will only open questions of instability about the blueshirts of the “if it was raining soup they would be running around with forks” variety.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      I too watched ‘Mo’ and although Walters was excellent the image of her in a yellow leotard and ‘Nora Batty’ tights as Mrs Overall in ‘Acorn Antiques’ is too deeply seared into my consciousness not to affect any part she plays…the portrayal of the way she was undermined by her male colleagues was probably accurate…It was interesting when she described the N. Irish politicans a ‘Fucking Paddies’…regardless of which side of the political divide you come from you are just another ‘fucking Paddy’ to the Brits…perhaps the Prods need to understand this…
      robespierre…you seem a little preoccupied with size! I’ve always been told it doesn’t matter…
      Looking forward to the time when the President of a United Ireland leads the Rugby team out..hopefully this time the players will have the liathroids to treat any visiting players who disrespect their President accordingly…

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Amazing the way Ahern gets to walk away and can swan about the place without a care in the world. The grin on him watching football in 3d is stomach churning. Despite everything he is the cause of. To think Irish people have the brass neck to sneer at African governments – pot and kettle.

      Even the dumbest victim of domestic violence finally realises that to end the abuse they have to end the relationship. As regards the political equivalent, it seems the Irish people are not quite there yet judging by the latest poll.

      If you aren’t convinced by Fine Gael or Labour or Green or Sinn Fein or Independent then pick don’t know. Can there really be 25% of the population who are so utterly thick they think Fianna Fáil is better than the alternative and are genuinely incapable of connecting the suffering all around them with the corruption of FF and their continued vote for FF being a vote of approval of that corruption? Bonkers.

      If Enda Kenny is such a drag on Fine Gael then how come it hasn’t prevented anyone voting for Fine Gael in every election he has led the party into. It’s not 1982 when we had 3 parties to pick from and FF and FG could get 80% between them on a bad day. So for FG to be getting 34% with a problem leader is pretty impressive – especially with 25% of the voting public clinically insane.

      It’s amazing how you and your colleagues Deaglán bend over backwards to give FF politicians the benefit of the doubt on any issue, as your astounding article on Cullen proved, but Fine Gael politicians are held to a different assessment – double standard and too much time being pally in Leinster House – maybe if you did your reporting of the Dail from outside Leinster House the media might shake off some of the Stockholm Syndrome.

      I must have missed it but I don’t get why people think Mo Mowlam magically solved the north by taking her wig off when the actual donkey work had already been done before her – Albert Reynolds, John Bruton, David Trimble and John Major are the heros of the peace progress – such as it is – Mo and Blair and Ahern were just lucky enough to be there at the end – the last person to hold the baton so to speak and if she had actually done something to tackle segregation among the two communities and integrated education then she would deserve praise.

      It seems her illness, much like Brian Lenihan, is used as a weak excuse to hold her to account properly the way her contempories have been.

    • robespierre says:

      No Blimey, I have been a huge rugby fan my whole life. Pienaar was an icon to people of my age even though I played front row until I had to retire a few years ago.

      He was 6ft 5″ and about 17st, ran like a gazelle and was dignified, enigmatic and charismatic.

      Matt Damon may be able to convey a (very) little of the man but he is 5ft 6″ and probably not much more than 11st. As a flank forward he looks ridiculous. Peter Stringer is taller and heavier than him.

      Mandela is over 6ft but Pienaar towered over him and was twice the width of him. Look it up on You Tube.

      Freeman looks taller than Damon in several scenes in the film – continuity is never Clint’s top priority as he shoots so quickly.

      Finally, to underline my point, the scrum half – normally the smallest person on the pitch – in the 1995 world cup was a 16st 6ft 4″ Afrikaaner called Joost Van der Westhuizen. It just annoyed me as a fan of rugby. Rugby fans still talk about the 1995 tournament like soccer fans talk about Mexico in 1970 or GAA fans the Kerry-Dublin finals of the 1970′s.

    • robespierre says:

      @9 – that is an outrageous assertion. It is an accepted fact of life that the final 20% requires 80% of the effort. Your mealy mouthed diatribe would befit a particularly acerbic member of the Orange Order.

      I tend to vote FG but I have no problem doffing my cap to the achievements of the US, Irish and British governments of the time in achieving the agreement.

      Your blind hatred of Fianna Fáil, however well intended, is dimming your faculties. As Sun Tzu said “to beat your enemy, you must know him first”.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I would think it would be interesting in the next polls that in addition to asking which party they would vote for, if they were offered the slate from the 2007 election in their area to see what effect incumbency overall has on the party numbers. This is not to draw any conclusions about individual constituencies but to see what effect asking a voter if they will vote for their local FF/FG/Lab etc person will have.

      I never held the view that in a general election that FF would end up polling 22/23% as the polls seemed to show last year.

    • John says:

      Why is there no posts on matters such as the Chilcot Iraq inquiry or the UN reports from Gaza and Israel’s whitewash.

      Just an observation as I would have thought these ripe material of interest for such a blog…

    • Deaglán says:

      We did have a good few discussions on Gaza this time last year. Do a search.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      @11 – ok well if the ‘troubles’ are meant to have started in 1968 and ended in 1998 that means 30 years and 20% of 30 years is 6 years – therefore the bigger part – the 80% effort you mention – was carried out from 1992 onwards and that means Albert Reynolds, John Major and John Bruton … they are the ones who took the risk and pushed it forward. All Ahern and Blair did was throw money on the table – that’s all Ahern ever did we now know – he never actually ever addressed the root cause of the trouble in the same way Reynolds did and Bruton tried to when he did something to make us face the reality that those who are unionists are not going anywhere so we need to grow up and face it that not all the people on the great little island, in the UK part or the corrupt banana republic part are the same – although of course historically both sides are curiously scared to know their history from before Randolph Churchill arrived in Ulster – I wonder why that might be.

      Have a read of Bruton’s speech to Princeton just after Sept 11.

      So spare me ‘poor Mo’ battled on through a brain tumour or that poor Ahern left a funeral etc etc. There had already been ceasefires before they arrived.

      Why is there still a need for ‘peace walls’ in the North for crying out loud.

    • John says:

      I referred to current news reports.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      robes..@10 I was having a ‘little’ joke…! You know the one about size not mattering… it’s all about the performance…! Never mind!
      I too love (International) rugby and I saw the match to which you refer…I’m sure Francois Pienaar is as charismatic as you describe, he comes across as very intelligent and personable and if I may be so bold he is also not too bad looking…I was very moved by the sight of Mandela on the field of play in a Bok’s jersey with a mixed race team and the respect shown to him. I look forward to visiting teams, you know who I mean, treating the head of State of the host Nation with equal respect when they play Ireland. I’m looking forward to the thrills and spills of the 6 Nations with great excitement and anticipation as I’m sure you are, and to seeing the ‘Bull’ cry when they play Amrhan na bFiannn of course, that always reduces me to a quivering wreck…Bring it on!

    • robespierre says:

      @15 you misread and miscontrue the concept behind the Pareto principle.

      Let me explain it in children’s terms with the well know story of the enormous turnip.

      An old man and all the farm animals had to tug away at this huge turnip for hours otherwise none of them would eat. A little mouse came a long right at the end and constituted the tipping point.

      The huff and puff before this undoubtedly had an impact but the turnip couldn’t be moved until the vital touch had been applied.

      The Hume-Adams dialogue and all of the other milestones were important but to actually put forth the view that Fianna Fáil and Labour did not strike out into unknown territory, territory nobody though could be reached is neither borne out by contemporaneous accounts, by the first hand stories of dozens of individuals including George Mitchell and Bill Clinton and by the histories that have been written since by players and by the fourth estate.

      I suggest you pick up the toys and put them back in the pram.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      @ 18 – now now play fair. Bertie Ahern did not seek out new ground nor did Mo Mowlam. Albert Reynolds did, as did John Major, as did John Bruton and it is ridiculous to imply that only Blair and Ahern could have ‘sealed’ the deal. Utter tosh. The deal was already pretty much sealed bar the hand of history when Blair and Ahern took over in 97. There was no going back to the past by that point with or without the wigless wonder.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      I find Des Fitzgerald’s offensive comments about Brian Lenihan and now Mo Mowlam’s cancer gratuitous repulsive and disturbing.

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      Just read Keith Duggan’s piece in todays IT about Invictus… Mandela, Matt someone and me…Pienaar’s uncompromising attitude to the singing of the anthem confirms robespierres account of him as a ‘giant’ among men…

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      @20 – people like Lenihan can’t have it both ways. Either his cancer affects his ability to do his job or it doesn’t.

      If it does he’s not fit to hold any public office and should be sacked – like his father.

      If it doesn’t then he needs to be held to account for his monumental failings as minister for finance – have his actions saved one job? No. Prevented a home being repossessed? No? Saved a firm from going bust? No.

      Protected the golden circle? Yes.

      So having cancer doesn’t automatically make a politician’s decisions wise and correct – either current ones or with hindsight.

    • Deaglán says:

      You’re a rough diamond, Desmond!

    • Blimey O'Riley says:

      Res Ipsa Loquitor…It’s not about ‘fitness for office’ it’s about callous inhuman gratuitous comments. As cheerleader in chief for FG you’re the best recruiting officer the Opposition could wish for…Rough diamond? Monsieur l’editor you are really trop gentil…

    • Ray D says:

      @22 Desmond you don’t sound too bad for a FG supporter. They have many like you..

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