Martin not to blame for Fianna Fail troubles as unpopularity due to TDs repeating examples of everything wrong with past
- 16 Sep 2020, 7:00
A SHOCK opinion poll for Fianna Fail has had commentators reaching for the Micheal Martin political obituaries.
It was clear that the Soldiers of Destiny were unpopular but no-one expected their worst poll result in history — crashing to ten per cent, a full seven points below their 2011 bloodbath election result.
There are glowing tributes for Fine Gael and even calls that Leo Varadkar be returned to the Taoiseach’s office early.
All these jump-conclusions are coming a tad soon and Martin could yet pull off a second renaissance in his tenure of the embattled party.
It’s absurd to pin all of Fianna Fail’s troubles on the Taoiseach. The party is unpopular because its new TDs are repeating the same examples of everything that’s wrong with its past.
Two Cabinet Ministers self-sabotaged their careers within weeks, one of them echoing the Galway Tent with the infamous knees-up in Clifden.
There have been petulant outbursts by the lessers in the party snubbed for jobs, unaware of their displays of self-interest.
The main contender for Martin’s job, Jim O’Callaghan, has made only one big call so far and by saying Phil Hogan should not resign, landed on the wrong side of public opinion.
In office, many of Martin’s ministers have not impressed. Thomas Byrne is the Junior Minister for Europe but in a week when Boris Johnson has torn up the Withdrawal Agreement the Meath TD has had low traction at home. By contrast, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has been hugely impressive.
Last week insurers were found to be ripping off customers with dual pricing, but the Fianna Fail minister responsible, Sean Fleming, is happy to do nothing.
He was on RTE’s Drivetime last week stuttering and sounding like a out-of-depth country lad who won his ministerial portfolio in a raffle.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien was excellent in opposition, promising to smash up Eoghan Murphy’s disastrous housing policies.
In office, the hound is still noisy but has no teeth and has merely ripped up his own promises while leaving everything Murphy had in place untouched. It’s a dispiriting performance by a TD who was once seen as tough.
Elsewhere Michael McGrath is an unnoticeable figure in finance and Stephen Donnelly’s media outings have been embarrassing.
Fianna Fail’s problems are not Micheal Martin but rather its low supply of talent.
In his internal rivals camp are the perpetually disgruntled and unlikeable John McGuinness, Marc McSharry, who nobody takes seriously, and the besmirched Barry Cowen.
If Martin has struggled to convey authority it’s because his party has been acting disloyal and frankly ridiculous.
It’s true his style is out of kilter with the modern era — Leo Varadkar continually proves that appearing to be a leader is only about PR and media performances and nothing to do with policy success or ideology. Micheal Martin is prickly.
He is a poor communicator; he frowns at every question put to him, his fastidiousness is grating and he doesn’t even try to win public favour.
If he’d an ounce of PR savvy he’d be trumpeting the huge success of reopening the schools.
Teachers and their unions had warned of apocalypse before they reopened and yet the plan worked out.
Martin would also be taking over the Brexit tough-talking from Coveney that has won the Minister praise from every quarter. There’s no way Leo Varadkar would miss such an open goal if he had the top job.
For its part, Fine Gael would be foolhardy to think that its poll ratings will last.
Once the Brexit deal was done in October 2019, the party soared to 32 per cent in the Red C poll, a similar position it holds now.
At the same time, Sinn Fein crashed to 11 per cent, ironically close to Fianna Fail’s rock bottom point today.
As we now know, it took just three-and-a-half months for that polling picture to dramatically change.
The voters don’t thank parties for past performance — elections are about the future. Fine Gael lost nearly 12 points while Sinn Fein gained 13 in the election compared to that poll.
If anything, Fine Gael must be the half hoping we don’t return to the real world anytime soon.
It’s riding high on its handling of the pandemic in spring and as soon as normality returns around 2022, people will be reminded of the party’s appalling legacy in health and housing.
A double-blow of the pandemic and Brexit will also see massive job losses and guess whose area this is? Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
It’s going to be a rough portfolio when the damage of Covid-19 to the economy is brought to bear next year.
To the other parties, Sinn Fein must be pleased that its standing continues to rise, despite the fact that it’s spent the last few months apologising for cock-ups, most notably the Bobby Storey funeral crowd.
Its new crop of TDs remain anonymous while Pearse Doherty and Eoin O’Broin are still rare stand-out performers.
Mary Lou McDonald has had an easy run in that no-one has asked her to provide an alternative plan while she criticises the Government’s.
Alan Kelly will be unhappy with his party’s desperate three per cent support.
He’s been excellent in opposition and has been active in producing bills like the one on sick pay for workers.
His attacks on Sinn Fein are not winning over left voters. And the Greens are holding their six points well, mainly because nobody’s noticed they’re in Government.
Perhaps they’re governing in energy-saving mode.
CULTURE NIGHT A MISSED PROTEST
IT’S Culture Night on Friday and this year’s schedule features a series of socially distanced or virtual events.
It feels to me that going ahead with a version of the usual fare is a missed opportunity. Culture Night — launched in Dublin by Lord Mayor Hazel Chu — should have been used as a platform of protest and to fight for a sector truly lost in the Covid wars.
There are carefully thought out plans for pubs and nightclubs, talk of more grants for the GAA, guidance and support for weddings but zero Government interest in live arts.
Music, theatre and comedy venues are shut and thousands of jobs in limbo.
Cinemas are back open but venues for live performances remain shuttered.
The problem for the arts is that it has no single body to fight for it.
The Arts Council is a funding body but it relies on the Government for that money so it’s careful not to tread on those toes.
Paltry funding to plug the gaps is not what’s needed.
What’s required is an action plan for how to reopen venues, especially now that the Government’s declared an acceptance that we must live with the virus.
There are now five levels of restrictions that show what sectors of the economy can stay open and how based on case numbers. Live venues cannot open on any one of those five levels.
So what is the plan? Are live venues set to close until it’s all over — an indefinite conclusion no-one can figure out anywhere in the world.
Can venues stay closed until 2022 and survive? It’s a question few are even posing.
Culture Night, when eyeballs finally turn back towards the arts, was the night to finally ask.
Eamon O Cuiv has called for me to resign. I would laugh out loud only I don’t like having any sort of craic.
Naturally people think I’m in terrible trouble with FF being ten per cent in the polls.
They’ve got me all wrong, diary. I love the gut-wrenching disappointment of being an unpopular Taoiseach.
The misery really clenches my abdomen, which is very good for the core.
Being about as popular as bunions was my plan all along.
I’m not into that fancy Dan being-liked stuff. That’s more Varadkar’s thing.
I believe his new office is all mirrors.
A sort of Varadkar’s Versailles so he can spend all day examining the one thing he truly loves.
Diary, I’m a man whose favourite treat in the world is stewed rhubarb.
Without the sugar. I love how the bitterness really brings out my frown.
I can crack walnuts with the rhubarb frown that I reserve for special langers like O Cuiv.
The FF gobshites are furious, just the way I like them.
Their rage and hatred of me is about the only sort of exercise they’ll ever get.
A good bolshie session would burn off a solid 200 calories. I often treat myself with a Ryvita cracker after a rancorous parliamentary party meeting.
Extra-dried under John McGuinness’ murderous stare and very good for your stool.
And I often think of John when I’m having a movement.
They say diary that Jim O’Callaghan is doing the chicken and chips circuit. It might win him votes but it’s his arteries he should be worried about.
I’ll carry on doing the superfood salad and halloumi fries circuit myself.
Grit my teeth (20 cals per grimace) and get on with misgoverning the country.
Popularity and joy diary, are very bad for the gut, going forward.