Tuesday 10 December 2019

Adams set for biggest act of escapology since Haughey

Poll: battle for Dublin supremacy between SF's Boylan and FG's Hayes

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

John Drennan

BLISS indeed is it this morning to wake up in the capital and be a Sinn Fein candidate.

Even that old political revenant Gerry Adams might be forgiven a toothy grin, for while the voters do not like him very much it doesn't seem to matter very much.

The party's leader has, during the course of this campaign, been questioned for four days over the murder of Jean McConville, while a second ghost involving his handling of the sexual abuse suffered by the Sinn Fein leader's niece also surfaced last week.

And yet we find Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan is now duelling with Fine Gael's Brian Hayes for the capital cock-pit.

Even Bertie (and quite a few bishops) would be impressed by that level of Teflon.

Of course, the cautious Irish electorate is also taking the canny side bet of sending Brian Hayes to Europe to ensure they have a man in a suit who can wing it with the respectable people. But despite a somewhat strange wobble by the normally steady Mr Hayes in the previous Millward Brown poll, that was always going to be the case.

When it comes to Sinn Fein, the electorate appears to be in the mood to, in the case of Mr Adams, discount the sins of the past in a similar manner to a bad debt built up in the boom.

Our voters, agitated beyond reason by the serial failings of our conventional political class, have decided that, in the words of Henry Ford, history is bunk... but only for some parties. Their decision means Mr Adams is set for the greatest act of political escapology since Charlie Haughey shook the dust of the Arms Trial off his aristocratic feet and ensconced himself in the Taoiseach's office.

Outside of the top two, for now Nessa Childers remains on course for a 'shock' victory.

But Labour's nightmare in a flowing dress has slipped somewhat back into the pack and is no longer quite so assured of success.

In contrast, Labour's Emer Costello is evolving into the blood-on-the-blouse style Bernie Malone of this contest.

Against almost insuperable odds the tenacity and the courage of the blood, sweat and tears Costello and Labour are bringing to the fight are even attracting the praise of Labour's political rivals and might yet save their stricken Tanaiste.

Before two more years of Mr Gilmore puts too big a smile on your Sunday morning faces, this is a race that is not over yet. The transfers of Eamon Ryan, who in common with the other left candidates has become fatally detached from the herd, may have a big say yet in deciding whether Labour can escape the vengeful phantom of a Green-party-style meltdown.

In contrast, though she is still in the pack Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick does not, on these numbers, have the finishing speed provided by a healthy dose of transfers to overtake her nearest rivals.

Fianna Fail whether it likes it or not, is still the Unforgiven one of the capital and Ms Fitzpatrick's vote bodes ill for its local and by-election prospects.

In contrast, Sinn Fein brings to mind the poet Emily Dickinson's famous warning that 'the heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care'.

On this occasion the fanatic heart of the electorate has chosen the 'Cinderella girl' of Sinn Fein and Nessa Childers, while the pragmatic head is sending Brian Hayes along to do the heavy lifting. Though they are very different political creatures, to put it mildly, their success brings a quite intriguing prospect to mind.

The man whose name can no longer apparently be mentioned in polite Fine Gael society, Frank Flannery, once floated the prospect of some future Sinn Fein/Fine Gael alliance.

To date all the talk has been of a Fine Gael/Fianna Fail coalition. On today's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown figures, however, such is the scale of the voters' disenchantment with the old ways of doing things, even this alternative would not command a capital majority.

It would take a Fine Gael leader with a big ego and a scant sense of political danger to broker such a FG/SF alliance, but Enda in 2016 (should he be still around) may be faced with this landscape.

It is a prospect that would evoke no small amount of political shrieking but, whatever about the blueshirts, Sinn Fein is not at all fussy about what variation of political wife-swapping it indulges in.

Just look at who its partners are in the North.

Sunday Independent

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