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Gallagher …. The Last of the Independents October 7, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

The recent Red C / Paddy Power (*Pdf here) and Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI polls show some movement in the poll figures of the candidates.
Michael D Higgins tops both with Sean Gallagher second in both.
Martin McGuinness is third in both too.
Then there’s a gap back to David Norris, Gay Mitchell, Mary Davis and Dana. I’m going to start with the bottom four.

Given that by the time they are eliminated they must get 12.5% of the vote to get their expenses the bottom four candidates are now scrapping it out to get that 12.5%.
Ipsos MRBI had David Norris at 11% whilst Red C had him at 14%. He may get a little bit more than 14% but not that much to put him in with a chance of winning. These polls were taken before the disability benefit story. I’ve heard the words “I was going to vote for Norris, but ….” far too often to think he’s a realistic contender. Also given that its almost a story a day there must be plenty more negative coverage of him between now and the end of the campaign.

Mary Davis is on 12% with the Irish Times and 9% on Red C. The revelations of a conflict of interest, having taken a donation from Denis O’Brien, the number of boards she was on and her salary at The Special Olympics all added up to stifle any wind that there was behind her campaign. I also think that the volume of posters she put up suggests that there is money behind the campaign, which leads people to be suspicious.
She was interviewed by Philip Boucher Hayes on Drivetime yesterday evening and came out appallingly. I’d be pretty sure she will do well to get her expenses.
It’s hard to see Dana reaching the 12.5% (although she did get 13.8% of the vote in 1997), She is at 5% in Red C and 6% in the Ipsos MRBI. At this stage she has no online presence (other than parody twitter accounts) and doesn’t seem to have much of a campaign going at all .

Gay Mitchell is at 9% in the Ipsos MRBI poll and 10% in the Red C poll. That is a woeful performance. By trying to take McGuinness out he’s taken himself out too. (Incidentally 10% of FG voters are voting for McGuinness according to Red C) He’s come across as grumpy, confrontational, irritable and most unpresidential. Hard to see him getting higher than 15%.

On then to Michael D Higgins. The front runner at 25% in Red C and 23% in the Ipsos MRBI poll and is also doing well on transfers. At this stage in his career there’s surely nothing to come out that could damage him. That said he’s seen as the best of a poor choice and were Gallagher to continue his climb in the polls he could be in danger.

Martin McGuinness on 16% (Red C) and 19% (Ipsos MRBI). He has lifted Sinn Fein above their 10% ceiling and is impressing a lot of non Sinn Fein voters. Despite many thinking that the Fianna Fail vote was the target of the McGuinness campaign, he appears to be taking just 11% of those who voted Fianna Fail at the last Election. (For all the bleatings about Gallagher being a proxy FF candidate he is taking 20% compared to Michael Ds 26% and Davis 18% of FF voters)
McGuinness is doing poorly on transfers but should at least come third on polling day and could even double the Sinn Fein vote which would be some achievement.

Which leads us on to Sean Gallagher who is on 20% in both polls. His combined leaflet idea to save 10 million Euro seems to be a bit of a winner as is his decision not to use posters. (I’m not a big fan of the combined leaflet idea myself 🙂 ). It just seemed a simple practical way of saving money and exposed the other candidates as wanting to waste money.
Another thing about his campaign and I don’t know how influential it has been is the presence of his wife at almost every event and photocall. No other candidate has appeared with their spouse/partner as much.
He seems to have batted away questions about his links to FF well. So already since the poll results, other angles of attack are being explored such as questions about the success of his Business interests.
The few people I’ve met who have met him on the campaign trail have been impressed with him.
He could win it yet.

Finally thinking of absent Friends 🙂 … The way the campaign is going I’d say there are many within Fianna Fail who are sorry that they are not standing Brian Crowley. He wouldn’t have won it but would certainly be ahead of Mitchell, Davis, Dana and Norris at least and that in itself would have provided a boost for the grassroots.

….and then comes this mornings poll in the Irish Times which shows that

Sinn Féin is now the second most popular party in the Republic, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

So the strategy of fielding McGuinness is paying dividends. It also makes the forthcoming Dublin West By-Election even more interesting.


1. rockroots - October 7, 2011

I don’t get the assumption in many papers that a poor performance by Mitchell has any bearing on the fortunes of FG. It’s far fetched to think that all the strands of opinion and all the principles of the party can be embodied in one presidential candidate. Maybe if this was a US-style presidential election with executive power, but it’s not. By that logic, up to 50% of the votes in a general election would go to independent TDs. But sure enough the polls still show FG holding up at 35% in spite of Mitchell.

That said, it’s clear that someting has boosted SF’s profile, and the most obvious thing is all the publicity – good and bad – that McGuinness has generated. As others have said, I can’t help thinking that the FG assault on him has only concentrated the anti-FG vote into support for SF. But McGuinness’ involvement in southern politics will probably be fairly brief, so it remains to be seen if they can maintain that profile beyond this election. I have to wonder also what will happen when the McGuinness/Adams generation has to hand over to a younger generation who can neither be attacked for IRA connections, nor use those associations to foster a ‘rebel’ image. Bearing in mind that Adams has been party leader for a pretty astonishing 28 years (just for reference, he became leader as President Hillary was finishing his first term in office!), largely unchallanged beyond the early years, that time will come sooner rather than later. I wonder how well they will be received with Pierse Doherty or Mary Lou McDonald as leader, and how they will handle the north/south balancing act.

Getting back to Mitchell, it was fairly obvious from the start that he wasn’t going to set the election on fire. The party leaders and even the party voters didn’t want him as their candidate, so choosing him reflects how the FG party membership still views the presidency – as a reward for retired and uncontroversial politicians. And I’d argue that Labour Party members showed exactly the same attitude as those of FG when they passed over their leaders’ preferred choice. The only difference is that Higgins has a marginally stronger public image than Mitchell. But the two big parties seem to have returned somewhat to the pre-1990 format for selecting a president.

The strong showing by Gallagher doesn’t surprise me in the least. He’s come across very well in the TV debates. He doesn’t bicker, he’s the most youthful-looking of the candidates, and he makes some valid points (about posters, leaflets, the irrelevence of the presidency to actual decision-making). Whether he’s just a very canny operator or sincere, I’m not sure about, but he’s going to do well.


Paddy M - October 7, 2011

And I’d argue that Labour Party members showed exactly the same attitude as those of FG when they passed over their leaders’ preferred choice. The only difference is that Higgins has a marginally stronger public image than Mitchell.

More to the point, Higgins has a stronger public image than Fergus Finlay, who was the alternative for Labour.

Mitchell, on the other hand, was by far the least attractive of the Fine Gael contenders to the average voter – and that was before they got a reminder of his way of conducting himself. Had they gone with the other McGuinness, the Park would be well within their grasp.


2. shea - October 7, 2011

think the dammage for FG is in brand. At the moment there seen as winners and sucess breeds sucess and they climb up the polls. looseing makes them look weak or looseing bad makes them look week. wish people deserted them because the policies they persue but sometimes people make big decissions on perception as opposed to logic. happens.

yeah polls go up and go down so SF should make the most of it while they have it. but thats true as well for all parties in this climate. its a good poll for SF but in a bit of context, people are saying FF are finished on similar figures.

i didn’t see gallagher doing as well as he is. thaught his media preformances were adequate. was surpriced because he usually looks polished on the dragons den. missed it totally and iam honest enough to admit it. a friend of a friend is working on his campaign and heard about a week ago that alot of his work would be on line. haven’t seen any sign of it but noticed in one of the opinion polls that he was very strong in the 18 – 24 age would guess the internet would be a good way to communicate with that demograph and if you looked where ‘the youth’ go on the internet there would probably be some sign of him there.


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