So – who’s going to win? I don’t know. I could say Fine Gael will do spectacularly well, Labour will do well, Fianna Fáil will do disastrously but better than Sinn Féin, yet Sinn Féin will still do well. But if I did I’d be basing my prediction on the polls and the polls, as you know, can get it horribly wrong.
The truth is, no one knows what the voters’ verdict will be. That doesn’t stop the pundits pretending. Yesterday on RTÉ Stephen Collins predicted that Sinn Féin this time out would get ten seats. That’s Stephen Collins of the late unlamented Sunday Tribune, which has been to Sinn Féin what global warming has been to polar bears. The fact is, predictions are shaped by your political perspective. If you want Sinn Féin or any other party to do badly in an election, when you scan the entrails prior to an election, your eye will be drawn to or even construct signs of cock-up. And the other way round – if you hope a party will do well, you run the risk of over-estimating their chances. So before you swallow a journo’s prediction, have a think about the journo in question’s past and present political loyalties. I’m not suggesting you shoot the messenger – however tempting that may be – but a quick check of their credentials could show their prediction in a new light.
In fact, regardless of elections, it would be useful if the background of journalists was made explicit. We ask it from other people, so why not from journalists? There are, of course, journalists who have come into existence through a kind of virgin birth and have remain unsullied throughout their lives. People like Liam Clarke, Henry McDonald, Ed Moloney, and Charlie Bird have always been meticulously neutral in all they’ve said and done. Other journalists, a quick look back shows they had links with Republican Clubs and/or Official Sinn Féin and/or the Workers’ Party, so of course their writings reflect that bias; but Liam, Henry, Ed and Charlie have always floated like recording angels above such things…No, no, I haven’t checked their records. What would be the point? If they had been involved with Republican Clubs, Official Sinn Féin or the Workers’ Party, I’m sure they would have told us. Wouldn’t they?