Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

Opinion poll: Farmers seek stability at a time of chaos

Kevin Doyle, Group Political Editor

FARMERS are never happy.

Like teachers they always want more supports and feel that the system is set against them in favour of those who only wear Hunter wellies when Electric Picnic comes around.

But the finding of today’s suggests there’s not a whole lot they would change either.

While global politics is in turmoil, Irish farmers want to retain the status quo of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Perhaps they feel there’s enough uncertainty as Brexit looms or maybe it’s just the case that as one respondent put it “all politicians are the same”. Better the devil you know.

But it’s certainly not disinterest. The fact that only 8pc said they wouldn’t bother to vote is a remarkable result.

Last year’s election saw a nationwide turnout of 65.2pc, with the electorate notably more exercised in rural areas. The highest turnout in the country was in the Roscommon-Galway constituency where 71.6pc voted.

These are statistics raise serious questions about Fine Gael’s ‘Keep The Recovery Going’ slogan. As a concept it bombed outside of urban areas.

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Enda Kenny’s party misread the public mood and suffered badly as a result, losing nine seats in Munster and another nine in Connacht-Ulster.

However, today’s survey suggests that sudden emphasis on ‘rural affairs’ in the aftermath of the election has gone some way to reassuring country voters.

A new minister to focus on rural Ireland was a start and the Programme for Government contained a full section acknowledging that “agriculture is the heartbeat of the rural economy”.

Issues such as broadband and infrastructure have been bumped up the political agenda.

The election was a wake-up call that, in terms of promises at least, Fine Gael seem to have responded to.

The party has a significant lead over Fianna Fáil in the south (30pc versus 23pc) and in the East/Midlands (40pc versus 27pc).

Micheál Martin’s party are ahead by 28pc to 26pc in the West/North West.

Overall Sinn Féin are at just 6pc showing that while they have a base in urban and border areas, middle Ireland remains unconvinced by Gerry Adams. Independents are also on 6pc.

But while that makes positive reading for the two main parties, the standout figure is the massive 22pc who class themselves as undecided.

Many famers are reserving judgment on a fragile government that’s propped up by the alternative.

It all points to a strange combination of hope and fear. Farmers appear to be giving Fine Gael a chance to make good on their post-election promise that: “Farm families and rural communities must feel the effects of positive economic and social change.”

But with so many undecided Mr Kenny’s party would be foolish to assume they have a clear lead in the regions.

At the same time the shadow of Brexit hangs over everything.

Asked if Ireland should consider leaving the EU, 80pc of respondents said Ireland should not consider it, while 16pc said ‘yes’ and 4pc said ‘don’t know’.

The figures are in stark contrast to the UK where 58pc of farmers wanted out.

Again the message from farmers here seems to be ‘steady the ship’. They want stability at a time of chaos.

That will be a challenge for our political leaders but one the main parties must take on if they are to avoid underestimated the impact of the rural vote again.

Online Editors

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