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Anne Harris: FF embarks on comeback trail

The cliche says a poll is merely a snapshot in time. That's true if you skinny-dip in the shallows. Real political change is to be found in the deep end of the poll. And the underbubble in today's Millward Brown Lansdowne poll for the Sunday Independent indicates a decided movement for Fianna Fail.

Perhaps it began when Micheal Martin put the country first, followed his conviction and supported the Government in campaigning for a 'Yes' vote in the referendum.

It is certainly evident in the way a group of Fianna Fail TDs, like Billy Kelleher, Michael McGrath and Sean Fleming, are taking no prisoners on NAMA, the public sector rehirings and the banks. Fianna Fail could well base its recovery on the negative equity and mortgage crises.

Ironically, it is Martin's support for the Government's 'Yes' campaign which indicates his opposition leadership mode. In doing so, he eschewed a carnival of potential point scoring against the Government's disastrous campaign. More importantly, he eschewed the chance to pay Enda back for 14 months of jibes and digs. And in this, he showed real political stature. A golden rule of politics -- and of life -- is not to allow perceived mistreatment to claim any more of your time than it took to occur.

Micheal Martin has refused to play the victim. The sign and symbol of the new Micheal Martin was his silencing of Joe Higgins on a recent Prime Time. In this he did us -- and perhaps the State -- some service.

Fourteen months is an aeon in politics. It's long enough for a government party (like Labour) to become an endangered species. It's long enough for a populist party (like Sinn Fein) to develop a chameleon skin of gravitas. It has proved long enough for Fianna Fail to get back to its roots.

It is instructive to look beyond Fianna Fail's 17 per cent versus Sinn Fein's 20 per cent, which the top line of the poll shows.

In the last general election, Fianna Fail was devastated in Dublin. Only one TD was returned to Leinster House -- the iconic Brian Lenihan. At the by-election following his death, the party was defeated. Incredibly this meant the Soldiers of Destiny had no representation in Dublin.

According to our poll, in Dublin it now has 12 per cent, which is a sign of recovery. But in the rest of Leinster it is at 22 per cent, which is 10 per cent ahead of Labour and only 3 per cent behind Sinn Fein. In Munster it has way outstripped both and in Connacht/Ulster it has left Labour at the starting post and is closing the gap with Sinn Fein.

Desperate times require desperate measures, says another cliche. Who knew that it was Micheal Martin's natural humility which was required?

Sunday Independent