Sunday 2 August 2015

The knives could be out for both Martin and Gilmore as poll predicts misery in Europe

Published 19/05/2014 | 17:00

Micheal Martin and Eamon Gilmore are facing into a tough election.
Micheal Martin and Eamon Gilmore are facing into a tough election.

THE problem for campaign-weary candidates is that their energies are in danger of flagging just as would-be voters are beginning to take some interest. Somehow the European Parliament and council hopefuls must find that last blast to take them up to Friday and polling day.

This day next week we will be poring over the outcomes and the Government will be trying to generate movement and distractions with much talk of a cabinet reshuffle dominating the news.

With just four canvassing days left there is a sense that the two Government parties are looking hopefully at a low turnout and those huge council areas of up to nine seats to help save their blushes. There is a lingering hope in Fine Gael and Labour that there will be many scenes which will be the election equivalent of "Johnny Comes Marchin' Home Again", as some of their stalwarts stumble through in the 22nd count very late and very inquorate.

Today's findings in the Irish Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll suggest that the combined Fine Gael and Labour rating is well short of 30pc. The events of recent weeks, especially chaos in the handling of garda controversies, have been deeply unhelpful.

But you can also factor in people fretfully contemplating water charges and local property taxes into the future.

Today's survey also shows that up to half the nation is minded to vote either Sinn Fein or Independent on Friday. Many activists in the traditional parties will find that difficult to accept - but other opinion polls show something similar, if a little less in intensity.

That is where the big parties will look hopefully at a low turnout at the next election. They hope that this could mitigate the huge swing towards SF and independents.

Odds are it will be a low turnout - very likely in the early to mid 40pc zone. But even at that there is a woeful kicking coming FG and Labour's way - quite likely far worse than the kicking they have been bracing themselves for.

Fine Gael look set to 'luck out' up to four out of the 11 European Parliament seats allocated to the Republic of Ireland. That would be a rather good outcome but not good enough to mask huge local losses. And today's opinion poll rankings are reminiscent of the 2002 General Election which brought carnage to the party.

Labour, and especially Eamon Gilmore, will have nothing to hide the kicking they will get. They will have no European Parliament seats compared with the three they won last time in 2009. All the mutterings will be about leadership change - something which may mean a prompter move to a Cabinet reshuffle than Enda Kenny might like.

The big puzzle in these latest findings is Fianna Fail's poor showing as the party and leader, Micheal Martin, are down in the rankings. That is despite a rather brilliant showing by Martin in recent weeks in his handling of the garda whistleblower cases and his relentless pursuit of Alan Shatter in the Justice Department.

We can only conclude that the people are not ready to forgive the Soldiers of Destiny just yet. It is also likely that the re-appearance of former minister Mary Hanafin did not help efforts to move on to a new agenda. Nor did Martin's hesitancy enhance his image as leader.

Micheal Martin's local election misery could well be compounded by difficulties on the European front. In South the party's political phenomenon, Brian Crowley, is away for skates.

But on a bad that could be it. In Midlands-North-West Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher and Senator Thomas Byrne could arguably drag each other down. In Dublin Mary Fitzpatrick is still in the fight for the final seat - but very far from assured.

If Micheal Martin's FF come back with one MEP the knives will be out. He might be dependent on the lack of a clearly convincing successor to see that one off.

Sinn Fein are now unstoppable and will have an MEP in each constituency. We must remember that they got 10pc in the February 2011 General Election which returned 14 TDs for them, many of them new and talented people. They are consistently shown on twice this amount and could finally have representatives in every part of the country – provided they can get that vote out.

Above all this will be the independents' election. Driving around the country, you can see the plethora of posters for independent candidates in and around every strong town. Already council officials are bracing themselves for some very noisy early meetings.

In February 2011 there was much talk about the profoundest change in Irish politics since 1918 as Fianna Fail were routed in that General Election. Next Friday we will very likely see that 2011 change, all changed, all over again.

It is happening largely because the public are fed up with Fine Gael and Labour, who they feel have let the people down. They cannot as yet at least forgive Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein and independents are the only option for many.

Irish Independent

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