FINE GAEL AND SINN FÉIN TO BATTLE IT OUT FOR LAST SEAT IN CAVAN/MONAGHAN

25 February 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

By MICHAEL McDONNELL

michael@northern-standard.ie

FOR SOME it will have been an interesting diversion, for others an annoying distraction, but either way, the three weeks or so of campaigning in the short and sharp “GE 2016” run-in will shudder to a halt tonight (Thursday), leaving it up to the voters across Cavan/Monaghan and the other 39 constituencies across the country to ponder their collective verdict.

Nationally, the general consensus among gurus and opinion poll watchers is that the possible shape of the next government is becoming increasingly difficult to predict. The failure by Labour to gain any points in the polls over the campaign, coupled with Fine Gael’s popularity wagon appearing to have hit the reverse gear at just the wrong time means the chances of the current coalition remaining at the helm, even if propped by a few maverick independents, has been all but ruled out.

In recent days talk about the previously unthinkable Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition has been gathering traction among many observers, including Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times, who we’ll credit with coining the moniker “Fianna Gael”. Such a coming together of the old Civil War antagonists would be one for the history books all right, but many in both camps would be more than a little distraught at the very notion of such an alliance.

And supporters in either party might have very good reason for such anxieties, a reason that takes the name Sinn Féin, whose undoubtedly larger than ever complement of TDs would see the party sitting pretty as the major opposition grouping and — by default, given the well-proven patterns of Irish election cycles — in pole position to strike for the top as the leading government party in the following election.

In any case, it might not be very long at all until such an election presents itself to the people, given the very real possibility that an administration with any kind of reasonable life expectancy may not be born at all to the 32nd Dáil.

According to the latest in the recent string of opinion polls, carried out for the Irish Times by Ipsos/MRBI, support for “independents/others” has now reached 28%, which puts this grouping of allsorts on an even par with Fine Gael. Sinn Féin may be a little perturbed by their reported four-point drop to 15%, while Labour will certainly be fretting at its loss of another percentage point to a lowly 6%.

But Fianna Fáil’s continuing slow upward trend (up two points to 23%) is interesting, as it suggests that the party more or less written off in many quarters following its….

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