Gavin Hyland examines the overtaking of Fine Gael by Fianna Fáil in recent polls.
Latest opinion polls show Fianna Fáil is the most popular party in the country on 33%, 8 points ahead of nearest rivals Fine Gael, according to a Sunday Independent/Kantar Millward Brown opinion poll.
This boost comes as Fine Gael enter self-destruction due to the Sgt McCabe scandal and their own internal leadership struggles.
Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, has called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to outline his future. Mr. Varadkar called the issue “distracting and destabilizing” as many tip him to succeed Mr. Kenny as the leader of the party.
With mutiny and the polls going against Taoiseach Kenny and his party, the people are looking for an alternative, with Fianna Fáil appearing to be the lucky winners. Fianna Fáil infamously oversaw the economic collapse in 2008 and have not yet been re-elected, but are the Irish people finally beginning to forgive or is this another example of the polls getting it horribly wrong?
Irish polls do not tend to get results as wrong as the British general election, Brexit or the election of Donald Trump, because Irish people tend to be more open to pollsters about their voting preference.
Furthermore, Fianna Fáil also showed a mini resurgence in the last general election where they secured 44 seats in the Dáil, just 6 less than Fine Gael. Fine Gael have continued to drop in the polls as the scandal’s pile up while Fianna Fáil reap the awards on the opposition benches.
If the polls are correct, we must ask what has caused Fianna Fáil to come back from the dead? The demise of Fine Gael is one of the major factors. The minority-led government has been battling off strikes from multiple sectors and social movements such as “Home Sweet Home” and the anti-water protests before them.
Nothing major has been accomplished and passing the budget in October was hailed as a major triumph. Overcrowding in hospitals and the homeless crisis added extreme stresses to the already fragile Government.
Fianna Fáil have remained relatively quiet during all this. With rising polls and the “no confidence” vote in the Government last week, Micheál Martin could have voted against Fine Gael and been quite confident of becoming Taoiseach but they did not take their opportunity.
There has been no real reason for an intervention, as Fine Gael has been quite happy to implode by itself. Parliamentary party members and Ministers are releasing contrasting statements about the future of the Taoiseach. Fianna Fáil have not changed any major policy stance and, apart from the acquisition of Stephen Donnelly from the Social Democrats, they haven’t even changed their personnel that much since Fine Gael gained office.
Micheál Martin and his party are simply benefitting from a lack of choice. People have not yet forgive Labour for their part in the last Government and the Greens are still in recovery mode from their last stint in office. Social Democrats, Independents and AAA/PBP gain support but not enough to form real Government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
Sinn Féin always do well in polls but perform less positively on election day. So, people are left with no choice but to return to Fianna Fáil and hope the party learned their lesson from their last term in Government. If not, there’s always the next election where the electorate can completely alter the make-up of Government and vote Fine Gael back in.