Green shoots for FF but big-shouldered Brian shrugs 'em off
Outside the Clonmel Park Hotel yesterday afternoon the posse of press were waiting excitedly -- or, well, with a soupcon of suspense -- for the arrival of the Taoiseach.
For the first opinion poll (or 'snapshots in time' as poll-axed politicians prefer to call them) of 2010 had just hit the news-stands and, mirabile dictu, was indicating that there was a hint of green shoots for Fianna Fail.
Only a hint, mind. The massed ranks of grassroots Soldiers of Destiny who have gone AWOL in recent turbulent times are still largely missing in action, but at least the poll suggested that the Government's popularity is no longer heading downwards at the same velocity as a skydiver without a parachute.
Moreover, Brian Cowen's personal rating has crept up three points to 26pc. Granted, he still ranks below Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore and Gerry Adams, but he's still a short neck ahead of paddy-last leader John Gormley.
Modest gains, perhaps, but coming on the heels of a year-long succession of dismal polls for Fianna Fail, it was surely enough to spark scenes of unbridled joy among the party faithful.
So would the Taoiseach emerge from his car, breeze past the waiting gaggle of media, local politicians and business people, and execute a few victorious cart-wheels around the hotel car-park? Would Brian's first utterance be a Homer Simpsonesque "WOO-HOO"?
It seemed possible, particularly when Tipperary South TD Martin Mansergh, cooling his heels while waiting for his leader's arrival, began to talk about "irrational exuberance". Alas, it transpired the junior minister was merely philosophising on the global economic meltdown.
But there was to be no one-man Mexican Wave. After making a brief speech to a gathering of the Clonmel Chamber of Commerce, the Taoiseach was hard pressed to summon up any enthusiasm for the smidgen of good news in the poll.
"Obviously polls are an indication of opinion at any given time," he shrugged, the picture of indifference.
"So whilst I recognise the polls and you guys can interpret them, the fact of the matter is that we get on with our work. So no matter what's in the polls, the same job of work has to be done for the country".
He also was unmoved by the notion that the absence of a bigger rise in the poll was because the voters were still highly sceptical about the decisions made by the Government to stabilise the listing ship of State. "We've made our decisions and set out our strategy. The opposition don't have a coherent strategy," he said.
"Against the background of difficult times in the country and a steep decline in fortune for the country in a very short space of time, that obviously has its impact," he reckoned. He evidently didn't give a hoot, one way or the other -- and it was patently far too soon to break out the bunting, bubbly and chocolate cake.
Still, perhaps that other poll would make his heart beat faster -- the poll which is scheduled to take place later this year for the Dublin Mayor. It will select the first directly elected mayor and is expected to attract all sorts of high-profile candidates.
So was the Taoiseach already studying the form-book for possible Fianna Fail runners? Would his previous boss Bertie be a dark horse, dead cert or non-runner?
Brian verbally ran eight furlongs from that particular Beecher's Brook. "We've made no plans in relation to that at this point at all," he said, then clammed up.
Serendipitously for anyone in search of a longer answer to the question, that very same enquiry was at that very same moment being put to the man himself at the Holiday Fair in Dublin.
Brian would've been most relieved/gutted to learn that Bertie firmly ruled himself out of going for the gig -- before ruling himself back in.
I know. Why doesn't Brian commission a poll?
Bertie interested if mayor has real powers: Page 22