Labour Party is the real victim of Sinn Fein’s ST poll surge

my take on the recent Sunday Times poll as seen from a different perspective, both in terms of distance and time. I never cease to be intrigued how distance can change your perspective. It is true whether that distance is in time or in space. Indeed not only does it change it, it usually improves it.

This blindingly obvious conclusion struck me late on Saturday night as I sat in my Hotel room on the Costa Blanca coast watching my twitter feed to find the results of the latest Sunday Times opinion poll.

As the old joke goes: it was like deja vu all over again. Exactly one year earlier I was sitting in another room at the same Hotel trying to follow the results of the General Election online.

Though I managed to log in every few hours to catch the resulting coming in online, I still failed to fully grasp the full impact of Fianna Fail’s defeat at the time. My mind was elsewhere. My Dad had died suddenly at my parents’ home in Spain on the eve of polling day. I had, along with other family members, rushed over for the funeral in the days that followed.

It therefore took a week or so for the full enormity of what had happened at the polls to sink in. When it did, I found myself almost detached from its consequences and outworkings. I had not been at the count centres for the emotional traumas. By the time I was back home and chatting with former colleagues; they were reconciled with their fates to the point of being phlegmatic.

Anyway, that was a year ago. Back to last Saturday night. Sitting in a similar room, one year on and almost 1800km away, I found myself having quite a different perspective on the latest opinion poll figures.

As I looked at the RTE news online I was taken aback to see them running the line that big news in this poll was the drop in support for Fianna Fail.

Really? Not from where I was sitting.

Perhaps it was the night breeze drifting in off the Mediterranean. Maybe it was the over generous Soberano.

Either way; it appeared to me that the big news in this poll lay elsewhere.

To my mind the first piece of news in the Sunday Times B&A poll was the halving of Labour’s support in one year – from 19.4% on polling day to 10% today.

Second was the dramatic increase in support for Sinn Fein. from just under 10% at the General Election to a whopping 25% in the poll.

Indeed, there is a third equally significant story, namely the finding that, at 70%, almost three times as many people are disatisfied with the Government than are satisfied with it (26%). Not a ringing endorsement for a government just one year into its term and yet to face any seriously testing challenges.

Though it would be foolish to read too much into just one poll, Sinn Fein’s strategists North and South will be feeling understandably satisfied that their tactic of placing the Labour Party firmly in their sights is paying dividends.

In comparison with these almost double digit changes, Fianna Fail’s decrease from 17.4 to 16 is modest, though disappointing.

Yes, it is the type of news Michael Martin and Co can do without with the first Ard Fheis in two years only a week away and the Mahon report looming. But who, in their right mind, really expected voters, who were bitterly angry with Fianna Fail, to suddenly turn and cry “this shower is even worse than you lot: all is forgiven” barely one year on?

Maybe it is a back handed compliment of sorts that the party’s fortunes still merit such attention and coverage: even when the figures don’t exactly back it up.

If so, then expect plenty more of the same for the rest of the year as further polls emerge and more pundits line out to say what it all means for Fianna Fail. Meanwhile, I will see if I can manage to be away for their publication. It appears to be the best way to view them.

FF’s Sean Fleming quickly adds up the damage

My review of Minister Brendan Howlin’s day 1 budget speech.

This is the first budget since Ruairi Quinn’s 1996 one where Fianna Fail have been in the position of having to respond as an opposition.

Only a handful of the remaining Fianna Fail TDs have any experience of replying to a budget statement on the hoof, like this.

Back then they had both the numbers in the chamber and in their research office to be able to respond robustly. Back then, they were also not hampered by seeng their economic strategy being implemented by the government.

In these circumstances, the party’s spokesperson, Sean Fleming, did reasonably well. His accountancy background enabled him to focus in on some of the finer and more damaging points that appeared in the tables, but somehow managed not to make it into the Minister’s script.

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald gave one of her best Dail performances to date. Whereas Fleming stuck with the detail, she concentrated on the politics, excoriating and needling Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers for reneging on their election promises.

Over recent years we have been moving from the traditional westminster model of budgets where the finance minister goes into a self imposed silence or purdah in advance of the statement, to a european one where large elements emerge into the public arena in advance.

While recent budgets have seen their share of advance kite flying, this one brought the craft to new and dizzying heights. 

It is all about the management of expectations. It’s an old trick. Get your people spinning that medical cards might be hit, and then hope the public will break out the champagne, or possibly the Babycham given our straightened times, when they are not.
So the theory goes. In this case the audience was not so much the people at home, but the massed ranks of backbench government TDs who would like to be two term Deputies not one termers.
This may account for the very muted applause after Minister Howlin resumed his seat. Though this may just as much been due to how inappropriate and ill judged the loud cheers and fulsome applause the Fianna Fail deputies gave to their recent budgets seems now.

Latest Herald column: First Anniversary of Dermot Earley’s Passing

This is my latest Evening Herald column: see here

Remembering Dermot Earley, a true Irish hero

By Derek Mooney
Saturday June 25 2011

IT IS a year since this country lost a man Enda Kenny described as iconic: Army Chief of Staff. Dermot Earley.

Far better people than me have given eloquent testimony to what an extraordinary man Dermot was. This can be readily verified by a visit to the excellent exhibition on his life and career at the GAA museum at Croke Park. On a purely personal level, what amazed me most about him was his capacity to command great authority while at the same time exhibiting a sense of humility.

He was strong and forceful, yet also gentle and relaxed. For almost six years, from 2004-2010, I worked down the corridor from him in the Parkgate HQ of the Defence Forces and Department of Defence.

Within a short space of time I witnessed his great personal skills, not least his ability to put people at ease. Both he and I were attending a social occasion organised by the soldiers’ representative body PDFORRA.

Through their involvement with the Euromil, the network of military representative bodies across Europe, PDFORRA had been supporting other groups seeking their own representation systems.

Attending the social function were three of four officers of a sister organisation not recognised by their own military authorities.

While I am 90pc sure I remember the country concerned, I won’t name it here. One of the PDFORRA senior officials asked me if I would mind meeting these guys. I said I had no problem and was introduced to them.

They were in civvies, as they were here on their own time.


Minutes later we were joined by Dermot, who arrived in the uniform of a Major General, as our Deputy Chief of Staff. He suggested we sit down at one of the tables and have a chat and a drink. The guys were not just impressed, they were visibly moved. Here was the second in command of our army not just meeting them, but sitting down and talking face to face when their own mid-ranking officers would not.

My other abiding memory was a a trip to the EUFOR HQ outside Paris. During a break, three or four of us, including Dermot, went outside to stretch our legs.

As we strolled we noticed a number of French soldiers on duty looking over at him from a distance. They could tell he was a senior general from his insignia, though it was clear they were unsure who he was, or where he was from.

He noticed this and chuckled as we saw them talk among themselves. At this point I piped up: “I think I know what they are saying.” “What’s that,” asked Dermot. “They are saying,” I replied, “you see yer man over there… he’s the greatest Irish footballer never to win an All-Ireland medal.” He looked at me sternly for about five seconds and then burst out laughing. He may have said something back at me, but I cannot quite recall just now. It is, however, the way I will remember him.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.

– Derek Mooney