Things, for the establishment in the south, keep going from bad to worse to nightmare. It started with that opinion poll which had both Fianna Fail and especially Fine Gael holding their heads and groaning audibly – Sinn Féin had moved into second place, with Fianna Fail as most popular party and Fine Gael in third place.
They and the rest of us were still digesting this stunning finding when along came the dreaded Red C Poll: the one you could rely on, the one that didn’t have holes you could shove your finger in and waggle about. And it says Sinn Féin and Fianna Fail are now neck and neck, with Fine Gael sinking rapidly. Eyes started, hair stood on end, garments were rended. Was it possible that the party which had been led by Bertie Ahern and Micheál Martin was seen as no better than the party that had been led by Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald? Shurely shome mishtake.
And then last night we had the Irish Times poll. (There’s a delicious irony in there somewhere if I could only tease it out.) And it found – omigod, man the life-boats, women and children look after themselves, this is Armageddon! – Sinn Féin had surged again and was top of the heap, with Fine Gael sinking further and Fianna Fail getting that sinking feeling as well. Eeeeeeeekkkkkk.
Bryan Dobson did a half-hour interview with Mary Lou McDonald last night before the release of the Irish Times poll. He spent most of the first ten minutes of the interview – near to one-third – quizzing the Sinn Féin leader about a man who’d been beaten to death in South Armagh about ten years ago and then about Mairtin O Mulleoir asking for advice from a senior Sinn Féin person about three years ago. I’ve no way of knowing if Mary Lou had prior word of the Irish Times poll, but she moved through the half-hour grilling with the assurance and grace of a world champion ice skater.
So we now have the delectable prospect tonight of a three-way debate between the leaders of FG, FF and SF, a debate which would have excluded the Sinn Féin leader if she hadn’t elbowed her way onto it in the light of the party’s poll performance. After last night’s poll, Leo and Micheál must be biting their arms and calling on God to explain Himself. Will no one rid them of this turbulent party, this bloody difficult woman?
Sorry Leo, sorry Micheál. It looks as if the people have opened their mouths and are about to speak. The ungrateful bastards.