Thursday 19 October 2017

The Blueshirts have little to be blue about now . . .

What: The Election, of course: Oh yes, very exciting, isn't it? Well not really. It's all been quite sedate for the past two and a half weeks, with no massive dust-ups or jaw-dropping revelations.



But surely there's been skin and hair flying between the main parties, given that it's such a close-run race? That's just the thing -- according to a slew of recent opinion polls this election is no cliffhanger at all. It looks as if Fine Gael are all but home and hosed, and also that Fianna Fáil are in for a hiding from the wrath-filled electorate.

Hang on -- didn't Fianna Fáil just acquire a shiny new leader who gave the party a big bounce? Yes and no. Micheál Martin got off to a roaring start (probably mainly because he wasn't Biffo) and got lots of positive press, particularly when he was judged to have stomped on Eamon Gilmore in the first telly debate on TV3. But then the Micheál Mojo faded, and the party failed to get a lift in the polls.

So Fianna Fáil are going to lose a few seats? More than a few. They are facing meltdown in Dublin particularly with some of the doomier doom-mongers predicting they may be wiped out entirely in the capital.

Good grief. Is this really possible? Well the party's optimists are talking about the 'spiral of silence' factor -- the belief that a proportion of the electorate are ashamed to declare their continuing loyalty to Fianna Fail but will vote for them in the privacy of the voting-booth.

And what about the much-talked of Gilmore Gale? How's that going? That appears to have subsided somewhat into more of a Gilmore Gust. The voters appear to be getting a bit wobbly about Labour, though the party is still very strong in Dublin, and in one poll last week the telegenic Micheál Martin stole Eamon's crown as the most popular party leader, nipping into the lead at 42pc as opposed to Eamon's 41pc.

So does this mean that at long last Enda Kenny is getting the Big Gig? It's looking increasingly likely, though Fine Gael have been here before and seen victory slip from their grasp. But Enda is living proof of the usefulness of determination. As one youthful candidate remarked this week, Enda has been in the Dáil since 1975, before she was born.

But what about the other two leaders, John Gormley and Gerry Adams? Have they had a big impact on the campaign? Not really. John's seat in Dublin South East is under serious threat, as are all six Green seats, and Gerry's been getting a grilling over whether or not he had been a member of the IRA (he denies this emphatically), although he did well in the five-way leaders debate on RTÉ last Monday night.

No doubt there are the usual rag-bag of Independents who always throw their odd-shaped hats into the election ring? No need to be supercilious -- there are a record-breaking 233 Independent or small-party candidates running this time, which is over double the number who ran in 2007, and some of these have a great chance at picking up a seat, including Senator Shane Ross in Dublin South and builder/restaurateur Mick Wallace in Wexford.

So there really hasn't been a whole lot of mud-slinging and dirt-dishing this time around? Very little. The Labour party had a bit of a go last week by running attack ads on Fine Gael in the national papers. But Enda refused to get into a scrap and simply dismissed the caper as "panic or desperation" from Gilmore's guys'n'gals.

It all sounds terribly dull, are they all in agreement over policies too? Not a bit of it. Fianna Fáil claim that there's a "black hole" in Fine Gael's figures, Labour accused Fine Gael of planning to cut child benefit, Micheál called Enda and Eamon "dishonest" for stating that the EU/IMF bailout deal could be re-negotiated. But it was all sniping rather than all-out warfare.

So dullsville all the way to polling day? Not necessarily. Tempers are fraying, so it might just get interesting yet.

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