Enjoy the silence before the post-count political noise

Inside Politics: The broadcast moratorium kicks in at 2pm

The Dublin County Returning Office Election Warehouse in West Dublin is home to 707 ballot boxes, thousands of elastic bands, pencils, staplers, ballot sheets, padlocks, balls of twine and more. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Deep breath - we’re nearly there. The broadcast moratorium kicks in at 2pm today, bringing silence and the chance to reflect.

The campaign has been in wind-down since the last televised leaders’ debate, and there is little left to say. The old arguments are still being being made, but there was an unmistakable end-of-term feel to the final press conferences yesterday morning.

The only thing for candidates to do now is to get out their vote in whatever way they can. An overnight message to party members from Fine Gael director of elections Brian Hayes shows the lengths people will go to carry out that task.

“Make 20/30 calls to friends and family urging people to vote for our candidates. Text your contacts personally looking for a vote. Take part in the ‘get out the vote operation’ going on locally in your area. Offer a friend a lift to the polling station tomorrow. Encourage students to come home to vote for FG. Stand with our candidates at junctions or commuter locations tomorrow. Keep on social media with strong FG messages. Keep canvassing for No 1s right the way to 10pm on Friday. After voting FG continue your preference to the Labour Party.”

Hayes urges members to push Fine Gael support above 30 per cent on polling day, the threshold the party must reach if it is to get anywhere near its 60-seat target. Some in the party were last night conceding that a final seat count in the mid to late 50s is more likely.

It is accepted across the political system that Fine Gael and Labour will need a combined 70 seats before they can attempt to form a government.

A combination of the Social Democrats - Renua is not mentioned at all - and a clutch of Independents would then be used to push towards the 79 seats needed for a majority.

Labour sources say the party will need 13 to 15 seats to persuade the membership to go back into government. Such an outcome would, in the circumstances, be a good result for Labour.

Otherwise, a Fine Gael minority government supported by Fianna Fáil is likely.

The Dáil resumes on March 10th, but Fine Gael sources acknowledged last night that a taoiseach is unlikely to be elected on that date.

There will be a lot of political noise after count day, so enjoy today’s silence while you can.

When all else fails, get dirty

The final two days in the campaign are when things get really dirty, as candidates mount last-minute attacks in the assumption that there is little enough time for retaliation.

Watch for leaflet drops that violate all agreed boundaries between party running mates. One Fine Gaeler last night complained that he had been ordered to hand a portion of his constituency over to his running mate - but, having been given an inch, the running mate took a mile.

Unsurprisingly, however, it is in Fianna Fáil that practitioners of the dark arts excel. The oldest trick in the book was dusted down in one unnamed constituency yesterday with a letter, printed with faked party-headed paper and a faked signature from a party official, alleging all sorts against the official FF candidate in the constituency.

Also in Fianna Fáil, party HQ had to issue a clarifying statement saying it had not directed people in Carlow-Kilkenny to give their first preference votes to TD John McGuinness over Bobby Aylward, also seeking a return to the Dáil.

Aylward claimed people in the constituency were being cold-called and instructed to vote for McGuinness but said it had nothing to do with McGuinness. McGuinness also denies all involvement.

Expect similar tales in the coming hours as we approach the election’s witching hour.