They say it’s not what happens but how you react to it that counts. If we go with that, then the weekend Sunday Times Behaviour and Attitudes poll showing Fine Gael with 18% support, Fianna Fáil with 20% and Sinn Féin with 35% might just as well not have happened.
The RTÉ website RTÉ News Now by Micheál Lehane did mention the poll, saying it “suggests that support for Sinn Féin has increased substantially since the General Election”. Suggests? Substantially? The general election results amounted to a three-way dead heat, most commentators agreed. When a poll then shows one of the three tied parties pulling spectacularly clear – a full 15% clear of Fianna Fail, 18% of Fine Gael – it does more than ‘suggest’ – it shows a huge increase in support. Fifteen per cent is a bit more than ‘substantial’.
Tommie Gorman has a long piece on the RTÉ website titled ‘What next for Mary Lou and the Barbarians?’ which looks at Sinn Féin’s relationship with violence, among other things, but no mention of that sudden 15% gap. Diarmaid Ferriter has an article on Sinn Féin in The Irish Times titled ‘Topping the poll was the easy bit for Sinn Féin ‘, the poll in question being their performance in the general election . No mention of the Sunday Times poll, although Ferriter’s piece may have been written just before news of the Times poll broke.
Admittedly, this is just one poll. The next poll may report something different. But a huge gap like that, at a time when both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail refuse to even talk to Sinn Féin, surely demands detailed attention and views on how the poll must affect Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil thinking. Because if they respond to it and decide to talk to what is clearly the most popular political party in the state, they’ll have gone back on their repeated refusals to touch Sinn Féin with a barge-pole. If they respond to it and continue to refuse to talk to Sinn Féin, they’ll have shown the absurdity, not to mention the undemocratic nature, of ignoring the political party the public support by a country mile.
Where are the mainstream media commentators discussing this FFG quandary? Once more, the mainstream media have let the mask slip.