Re-emergence of FF is not inevitable
Fianna Fáil seems to have got its act together but it is early days yet for the party
WHEN SHE spotted Micheál Martin when speaking at her book launch on Thursday night, Mary O’Rourke congratulated the Fianna Fáil leader on the party’s rise in the polls. To general laughter she added that of course one swallow doesn’t a summer make, before finally adding in her inimitable style that it was nonetheless always nice to see even one swallow.
The exchange sums up the significance of Fianna Fáil’s four-point rise in this week’s poll in The Irish Times. It will do party morale good, but it doesn’t make its re-emergence inevitable.
The rise for Fianna Fáil mirrors an equivalent fall in Sinn Féin’s support. It gives Martin and his team some comfort that they may have begun the process of edging up support levels.
Sinn Féin was higher when Ipsos/MRBI last polled in May because of the profile it attracted from its opposition to the European fiscal treaty. Sinn Féin also had a more robust parliamentary performance at the time. This autumn, however, it has been quieter and Gerry Adams in particular appears politically subdued.
Fianna Fáil, by comparison, seems to have got its media and parliamentary act together over the summer. For the first half of this year Martin and his finance spokesman Michael McGrath were the only active or competent voices on the Fianna Fáil front bench. In recent weeks others have had the opportunity to shine, not least during the O’Reilly controversies on which Billy Kelleher has been particularly effective.
It is just over a year since Fianna Fáil got itself into contortions over whether to run a candidate in the presidential election. It is only seven months since Éamon Ó Cuív’s pre-ardfhéis shenanigans. Now at least Fianna Fáil seems calmer internally. Externally it is beginning to come across as more coherent and co-ordinated.
There is limited space for Fianna Fáil to make further gains in the polls in the short term. Its capacity to benefit from the difficulties which the Government will face over the budget is undermined by the fact that this Government, when bringing in cuts and new taxes, will be implementing much of the four-year plan agreed with the troika by Martin and his colleagues in the last government.
The reason that the rise in Fianna Fáil vote became the headline story from this week’s poll was because there was no statistically-significant change in support for the Government parties. Fine Gael and in particular Labour will be relieved they have not slipped given the controversies which have dominated news coverage since the summer.
Labour is actually measured up two points. In circumstances where speculation and stories about further austerity measures abound the stability in the vote share for Fine Gael and Labour appears at first glance to be remarkable. However, that stability in their vote is only when compared against last May’s poll. The fall in support for the Government parties, and for Labour in particular, happened before that.