October 6th, 1990
FROM THE ARCHIVES:A month before the 1990 presidential election opinion polls showed Brian Lenihan to be the clear favourite but Mary Robinson was making the headlines. – JOE JOYCE
PRIVATE OPINION polls conducted by Fianna Fáil are expected to show the party’s Presidential candidate, Mr Brian Lenihan, holding about 51 per cent of electoral support, with Labour’s Mrs Mary Robinson in second place with approximately 25 per cent of the vote. The Fine Gael candidate, Mr Austin Currie, is said to be still lying third, with less than 20 per cent support.
According to the latest samplings, . . . the Tánaiste’s [Lenihan’s] lead over the opposition candidates has slipped by just half a per cent. Support for Ms Robinson is up marginally but Mr Currie’s rating remains static. Sources within Fine Gael yesterday agreed that their candidate was still in third place, but were optimistic that the gap between Mr Currie and Ms Robinson was beginning to narrow.
Meanwhile, the Labour leader, Mr Dick Spring, has claimed the former Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald, will “come to regret” his warning that the election of Ms Robinson would give the wrong impression in the North and to British public opinion.
Dr FitzGerald said that the election of either Ms Robinson or Mr Lenihan would send a wrong signal because of their approaches to the Anglo-Irish Agreement [criticised by Robinson for ignoring unionist opinion and by Lenihan for being partitionist].
Mr Spring spoke yesterday of “the increasingly sleazy approach by some in Fine Gael”. He was “saddened and astonished” that the party, obviously in desperation, had chosen to drag a politician of the standing and integrity of Dr FitzGerald into the Presidential debate, and at the manner in which he had been used.
Mr Spring said he could not believe that Dr FitzGerald thought Ms Robinson’s decision to disagree with the agreement on a point of principle disqualified her from being President. [ . . .]
However, the Fine Gael deputy leader, Mr John Bruton, said yesterday that a President should be able to distinguish between what was possible and appropriate for a lawyer and politician and what was possible for a President. He said Ms Robinson had made a serious misjudgment in introducing the contraception issue into the Presidential campaign.
That she chose to express controversial views on such matters – the role and internal affairs of one of the Churches – and on laws that were a matter for the Oireachtas rather than the Presidency, suggested her Presidency could be divisive, he said.
The controversy caused by Ms Robinson’s interview with Hot Press magazine [in which she answered “yes” initially when asked if she would as President officially open a stall selling contraceptives] highlighted the central theme of the Fine Gael campaign, that the President be independent, “but not meddling”, said Mr Bruton.