Fionnan Sheahan: Both parties are ignoring polls to play the long game
Published 12/01/2013 | 05:00
Thoughts of reshuffles and renegotiations of the Programme for Government will count for nought if the Coalition doesn't get a deal on bank debt and get the country out of the bailout.
Fine Gael and the Labour Party are already taking the long-term view that what matters are not opinion polls at this point, but their prospects in three years' time when a general election is imminent.
The coalition parties are viewing the possibility of a historic return to power as the real goal.
But a failure to get out from under the control of the EU-IMF team, through the requirement for a second bailout, will put a severe dent in those ambitions.
The very stability of the Government will be called into question in that scenario.
The stakes are high.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has the cushion of leading by far and away the largest party, which could lose 20 seats and still be ahead of any competitors after the 2016 general election.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore doesn't have that level of luxury with both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein snapping at his heels, and he will recall the fate of previous junior coalition partners.
After the bruising encounters over the Budget, the Christmas break and the start of the EU presidency meant a break from the fractious relations and no time to renew hostilities.
But the row over income taxes hasn't gone away and is likely to feature all the way to polling day.