Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ganley surges in final days - Red C poll

Reports reached us last night that the Sunday Business Post's regional breakdowns of tomorrow's Red C election poll would not be released, but that their findings would show a surge for anti-Lisbon candidates Declan Ganley (Libertas) and Toireasa Ferris (SF). According to the source, on politics.ie, the newspaper would acknowledge a swing to Ganley: "but won't give the numbers, but I'm told 16% with a massive MOE of about 6% because of the sample size. Ganley's own people have been trying to push some internal research showing him on 23% and heading the poll with massive support in Galway, but no newsdesk has bitten yet because nobody (me included) thinks its credible. Mind you, the SBP figures make it just a little bit more possible". Meanwhile, in South, a compelling three-way contest is brewing between sitting anti-Lisbon Independent and disability-rights campaigner Kathy Sinnott, Labour's Senator Alan Kelly, and the dark horse who came from nowhere - Sinn Féin Mayor of Kerry Toireasa Ferris. However, the claims also raise ethical questions as to whether or not the newspaper, which - as a major player in the Irish newspaper-industry - owes it to its readership and the electorate to release the regional-breakdowns in full. This angle is alluded to by the source, who references the fact that when Ganley was on 5% in Northwest in the previous Red C poll, this was published by the newspaper. From my own personal perspective I believe they should publish, or have their impartiality called into question. While by no means the most serious offender, I am of the view that on balance, the Business Post has tended towards support for the Lisbon Treaty and by extension, the pro-Lisbon cause - a matter obviously relevant to these elections. As the only member state holding a referendum on the controversial Treaty (which as the EU Constitution was rejected by France and the Netherlands), the outcome of these elections will set the stage for the Autumn referendum in Ireland, and play a role in influencing the credibility of either side in the campaign. In that context, and in view of the enormous implications for Irish sovereignty of a decision to ratify or otherwise, I therefore call on the Business Post to release - as it has done in the past - the regional-breakdowns of tomorrow's Red C poll on the euro-elections.

Asked how the Business Post will portray the swing to Ganley, he adds they will "sit on the fence. He'll want to be able to say that the SBP picked up the swing if Ganley wins, but won't want to be seen as giving Ganley too much momentum", adding they are "writing a piece on Ganley's position on neutrality also, which I imagine won't be pleasant for Libertas supporters. Then again, all papers have discredited themselves on Ganley to the extent that I don't think smears work any more". I was concerned by this, in particular the question of whether the publication had a political-motivation in concealing its hard-data on Ganley's performance in Northwest. However, the source adds "they have picked up what some are calling a "big swing" to Ganley in the North West, with him picking up about 10% on where he was previously. Most party sources believe Ganley is on about 16% and rising and the RED C poll seems to confirm this. The key for Ganley will be momentum in the final week - if he can finish in the top 3 with 17-18% most observers agree that he will be safe enough. However, the Irish Times poll showing him stalling cannot be discounted, and we will have to wait and see on this one. In South, I'm told the increase in the Ferris vote makes up for much of the overall 3% national swing to Sinn Fein, and that she has moved into the "top tier" of candidates alongside Sinnott and Kelly. This is good news for Sinnott if she can stay ahead of Ferris, and curtains for Kelly as it is generally assumed that Ferris will benefit Sinnott when she goes out. As for Eoin Ryan in Dublin,"Fianna Failers are now certain that Ryan is a gonner. As in dead and buried. They are also worried about East, and feel that polls in NW are vastly overstating their vote. I know one FFstaffer who has put €500 on the party returning ony one MEP. Still too early to say, but Euro polls are notoriously unreliable. In NW, the relentless attacks on Ganley should be seen as a real indicator of how worried the parties are about him. Notice how none of them have attacked McLochlainn - they don't fear him, but they do think Ganley is a threat for a seat".

These expectations seem borne out by the actual results of the poll, which - as predicted - did not include the usual regional breakdown. For the Euro elections, the results are:
FF: 20%,FG: 34%, Labour: 14%, SF: 9%, Greens: 4%, Libertas: 4% and Independents 15%. Without such a breakdown, all we have to go on is commentary by Richard Colwell (Red C) and Pat Leahy - and I have no beef with either of them. But it means we have to take their word for it when it comes to the likely apportionment of seats, which Colwell does as follows: "Liam Aylward is still in with a fighting chance for the third seat in the East constituency…Libertas support does appear to be on an upward trend…Almost all of this support is for the party’s founder, Declan Ganley, who, based on the poll’s constituency-figures, could yet be in with a shout to take a seat in the North West. This is a significant gain in two weeks and means he is a real threat to Gallagher, O’Reilly and Independent Marian Harkin…Harkin does remain in the running for a seat in the North West constituency, but could suffer at the hands of Libertas.". The national poll, in showing Libertas support at 4%, needs to be seen in the context of them only contesting three constituencies (Dublin, East and Northwest), but the fact that Ganley - written off for months by a hostile media in a manner familiar to the PDs for their 27 years on this earth - now stands on the threshold of ousting Harkin or sending Pat the Cope back to Leinster House despite an existence of barely six months must rank as a considerable acheivement and - on the context of these recessionary - even depressionary times - not an untimely one. Indeed even Jamie Smyth on the Irish Times blog, not exactly known as a friend of Libertas or the no campaign, is gracious enough to acknowledge than a successful election for the party cannot be ruled out, and that: "I think it is too early for yes campaigners to start counting their chickens ahead of the October vote. For one thing the economy is in such a bad state and sentiment towards the government is so poor that a Lisbon II referendum could become a referendum on the government. In other words, people may vote no to Lisbon simply to force Brian Cowen to stand down and prompt an election and a change of government.". We disagree of course, of the reasons for the no vote, but it is nonetheless comforting that the general nastiness of this election cycle can at times be rendered civilised and devoid of the kind of arrogance the Irish people have had to endure from our political, intellectual and media-elites since voting "the wrong way" last year. It is a trait others, like Europe Minister Dick Roche, might do well to learn.


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