'Have we not learned anything from this recession? Eamon Gilmore and the Labour Party's popularity are over-inflated like the property bubble and we all know that all bubbles burst at some stage," predicted an envious Fianna Fáiler a few months ago.
He was speaking at a time when the surge in support for the Labour Party was at its height and the 'Gilmore for taoiseach' slogan looked to be a very real prospect. But last week's Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showed support for Labour drop by eight percentage points to 25% and sparked questions about whether the Labour bubble has indeed deflated.
The drop in support for Labour may be just a blip along the road to a 'Gilmore Gale' that sees the party gain the most Dáil seats in its history. Either way, one discernible result of last week's poll was that Labour's loss has been Sinn Féin's gain.
With a surge in support of seven percentage points up to 15%, the party is now enjoying record levels of support. But is this just a bubble that will inevitably burst before polling day?
A Sinn Féin spokesman said, "We would be very cautious about polls and we wouldn't be getting carried away with them. But as the Irish Times poll and the last Red C poll both show a rise in support for Sinn Féin we believe that the first one was not just a blip.
"We know that the party in the south has been very active on the ground over the past year or so and our activists have been getting positive feedback.
"We stayed outside the 'consensus for cuts' that Labour is part of, and we have put forward a real alternative. We believe that this has got us results. We also had Gerry Adams entering the south which was very positive for us."
Kerry North TD Martin Ferris was eager to play down Thursday's poll results. "The only opinion poll that counts is the one on election day and I would always be suspicious about them.
"All I can say is that on our canvass on the ground we are finding the response very supportive of our stance on the economy and regarding the IMF. The growing group that is the working poor is very supportive towards us.
"We have four TDs and our intention is that we reach the magic figure of seven TDs and possibly go even higher than that on a very good day. The poll certainly is very encouraging but we will not take too much from it."
The Ipsos MRBI polling company conducted the poll last Monday and Tuesday. So the WikiLeaks disclosure on Monday morning that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were fully aware of the IRA's plans to carry out the Northern Bank robbery in December 2004 appears to have done no harm to Sinn Féin in the poll.
Ferris remarked, "I don't think it has done any damage to us as the story was based on an assumption that Bertie Ahern had about the Northern Bank robbery. We had worked with him before then and after that as well."
However, one certainty at the moment is that Pearse Doherty is connecting with the public in a similar way to Fine Gael's Michael Noonan, with both parties getting a bounce in the polls.
A Sinn Féin insider said, "Winning the Donegal South-West by-election has had a positive impact. It is important to say that it was not just the High Court case that helped us win there as Pearse Doherty had a lot of work done on the ground and we had organised our campaign very well. The court case was another plus.
"The political conditions at the moment have also helped us as people are so angry at what's going on and have seen that the Sinn Féin message adds up. We were talking about the dangers of the inflated property bubble at a time when nobody was listening. The last election was basically just an auction to see which party would cut taxes. We were not advocating tax cuts and now people realise we were right."
"We also have people like Maurice Quinlivan in Limerick, Pearse Doherty in Donegal, Peadar Tobin in Meath West and Mary Lou in Dublin Central, who are all very able."
There is a realisation within Sinn Féin that the Labour surge over the last two years was damaging to Sinn Féin in areas such as Kerry North and Aengus Ó Snodaigh's Dublin South Central constituency.
There is a belief that Sinn Féin is attracting support from disillusioned Fianna Fáil voters who will never vote for Fine Gael and there are parts of the country where Labour does not have a strong grassroots organisation compared to Sinn Féin.
"Our surge has not happened by accident. Since the 2007 general election we have completely re-organised the party in the south and we now have a political message that is clear and simple," said one Sinn Féin activist.
"Since we set up the Dáil technical group last week we are able to ask questions during leaders' questions in the Dáil so that means they're going to get more media coverage."
One political analyst admitted he was "genuinely surprised" at the Irish Times poll but it does confirm the results of an Irish Sun/Red C poll from a fortnight ago where Sinn Féin was on 16%.
He said, "You think that Sinn Féin could win over 15 seats on the basis of last week's poll but when you start to look around the constituencies it can be hard to identify exactly where its seat gains are going to come from. Sinn Féin is certain to make gains in places like Donegal North-East where Padraig Mac Lochlainn will take a seat but other areas are not as clear cut. But, that said, you can't ignore what the polls are telling us."
The Irish Times poll found that Sinn Féin has most support in the Connacht-Ulster area where it is on 19%. It is on 15% in Dublin, 12% in the rest of Leinster and 17% in Munster.
Sinn Féin is expected to poll well in urban areas and the analyst believes that the recent opinion poll opens up a number of windows of opportunity for the party to win seats in various constituencies.
In the last general election, Sinn Féin won 6.7% of the vote in Waterford and 7.3% of the vote in Wexford. The party had a 6.9% national share of the vote in that election so recent opinion polls show support for the party doubling since 2007.
The volatility of the current political situation cannot be underestimated, but if Sinn Féin maintains its current poll rating of around 15%, then its candidates in places like Waterford will be in with a very real shout of winning a seat.
The analyst remarked that if Sinn Féin does as well in Dublin in the general election as it did in last week's poll then it could end up taking a seat in constituencies where Labour has hopes of taking two seats.
For example, Labour's Roisín Shortall is certain to keep her seat in the three-seat Dublin North-West constituency and she has a great chance of becoming a cabinet minister. Until now it was expected that Labour would take two seats in that constituency, but recent polls suggest Sinn Féin's Dessie Ellis could take a seat. The analyst predicted Sinn Féin, Labour and Fianna Fáil each taking a seat.
Elsewhere, he predicted that former TD Seán Crowe was in a healthy position to win back his Dáil seat in Dublin South-West. Mary Lou McDonald's 3,182 first-preference votes in Dublin Central in 2007 represented a 9% share of the vote and recent polls put her back in with a shout to take one of the four seats there.
There is certainly 'something about Pearse Doherty' and one Sinn Féin insider lamented, "It's a pity we don't have 10 Pearse Dohertys."
But what about the Adams Factor?
The political analyst said, "Gerry Adams made his announcement that he was going to stand for election around the same time as the Donegal South West by-election so it is difficult to discern which of them has helped create the Sinn Féin surge most.
"Pearse Doherty was a good candidate who performed well in the by-election and he has done well in the Dáil over the last few weeks.
"There is as much negative sentiment about Gerry Adams as there is positive about him so it is hard to see what effect he has had."
These are volatile times in Irish politics and it is anybody's guess as to whether Sinn Féin will sustain its current dizzy heights with a popularity level of 15-16% or if it will be back down around the 7% share it had in the 2007 election. The likely answer is that it will be somewhere in the middle.
You will never have Democracy when a politician's first priority is allegiance to his/her political party and not to the people who elected her/him, so this is all just so much BS.
They get in and do whatever the hell they want with no comeback from the electorate for 5 years, yeah great stuff.
I dont think that Sinn Fein will poll anything like 15% in the general election...however....I do think that Peadar Toibin and Mary Who will join Gerry, Kevin, Martin, Aengus and Pearse....this will be Sinn Fein at their electoral height in the south as it was for the Stickeys sometime back....following the next Dail most of the Sinn Fein leadership will be passed retirement age and then it will be down hill all the way with Sinn Fein in the south joining Labour and the northern sectarians continuing to serve their British master.....still it was great while it lasted...
If Sinn Fein ever gain power Ireland will end up like North Korea, in total isolation. The best Ireland can do is rejoin the commonwealth and heal the rift with its million or so expats living in England, Those Irishmen mostly from the west that emigrated in the fifties and sixties and now their sons have become more English than the English. Maybe Ireland should allow its expats in UK, Oz, New Zealand,Canada and everywhere else to vote in its elections Just like the expats of other European countries.
Good luck to yez all if you think Sinn Fein are gonna oppose cuts if they get in power. They are a senior coalition partner in the Northern administration who this week have announced cuts of £4billion and the loss of thousands of public sector jobs. Don't get me wrong I don't think they had any choice because just like in the Republic they are finding that you can't spend money that simply isn't there. So if you want a bit of advice from a Nordy I would treat their 'passionate' opposition to cuts with a little skepticism. As for Labour and the blue shirts a centre piece of their joint policy platform at the last election was to cut stamp duty at the height of the property bubble to keep the party going and give the revelling electorate more beer at the biggest credit binge party in human history. In otherwords they didn't believe that Fianna Fail was driving the country off the cliff fast enough. Bertie Ahern and Charlie McCreevys legacy is finally coming home to roost amidst the howls of indignation from a population that returned them again and again right through the corruption tribunals and onwards as long as they maxed out the countries credit card and let the party continue for one more round. Well you know what they say when you have a hangover! Twas self inflicted. Take some responsibility folks rather than looking for scapegoats and Ireland will rise again but hopefully smarter and capable of thinking longer term.
Tis all For Now Happy Christmas (snowball fights are free)
Any surge, anyone, but FF or FG this lot too failed to hold FF boyos, ( I recall down in the west years ago, the old folks referred to thugs as "boyos") to account in the dail, in fact it was SF who forced the Donegal bye election, a great day for democracy for FF, me, I'd vote for the devil himself, before voting for either of those.
Sinn Fein has struck gold with Pearse Doherty. His performance in his first weeks in the Dail has been electrifying. Add to that he is good looking. There are so many ugly looking people on RTE it's nice to look at someone young and handsome. There's quite a lot of young good looking men and women in Ireland but you'd never think it looking at RTE. Pearse for Taoiseach.
Decent people can never forget the words of Adams' niece about her years of rape and other abuse. The threats that she and other victims of rape and sex abuse by senior republicans received, when they sought help, are a stark reminder of what this gang of thugs really stand for.
It is sickening to see members of Sinn Fein/IRA taking votes from misguided people down South, who know little or nothing about their role in protecting these sexual perverts and the others who, for years, have controlled drug supplies and other serious anti-social crime on both sides of the border.
Collins and Connolly must be spinning in their graves. Better IMF and the UK, than these sick parasites.
@George, I think that you are a bit confused, if the second generation Irish are more English than the English then why would they be interested in Ireland rejoining the commonwealth. In my experience the second generation Irish are an unpredictable lot who range from being very Irish to over the top about their Englishness, depending on how they were brought up.
I agree with you however, that Irish passport holders abroad should get the vote, we have been an unheard voice for too long given the mess that has been made of our country.
Jack - Sinn Fein have many dark secrets - however - Fianna Fail made an election promise in 1997 that they would introduce the Mandatory Reporting of Child Rape - in 2010 it is NOT a crime to conceal the Rape of Children in the Irish Republic - so while I take on board your comments about Adams and company - I personally think that the greater criminals are already in Government....
A previous post here still goes on about the past and how Sinn Fein protected rapist's and controlled drugs etc. I as a Northerner who lived through sectarianism, Gerry mandering discrimination and killings all because of my religion or because you were perceived to be Irish have always known that for Ireland to move forward I had to move on from the past. Northern Ireland then was a twisted state run by fanatics and this turned people into individuals that they would never have dreamed they would be, but Sinn Fein I feel are genuinely sorry for the past and now only have what is best for Ireland North and South in their hearts with no agenda just an anger our sovereignty ( which we were persecuted up North for) is being eroded. So when Sinn Fein does well we feel as a people are voices which were ignored and sidelined in the past finally are heard so I hope with all my heart and soul Sinn Fein do well in the coming elections
Spin Fein are telling us that they have changed. But this is only superficial in nature. Underneath they are the same scumbags who kicked Robert McCartney to death because he stood up to a bully in a Belfast pool room.
SF are a sectarian outfit who engage in acrobatic PR stunts to demonstrate that they are not a sectarian outfit. The levels that they will go to, to sell us the idea that they are going to fix matters is hilariuous. It is the most elabourate coverup since the Anglo 10 tried to hold up the Anglo share price.
NI politics is about the only nonsense that has not yet been tried out down here. It will make matters worse. Much worse.
The people who are ignored that concern me, are those who died at the hands of SF. They are ignored in the midst of this surge.
I agree with some of the comments I for one would not like SF to gain any seats.Ireland would be destroyed Internationaly.Just go to Tralee any Sat and see the propaganda they sell on the street.and the slogans they display while trying to recruit innocent Teens.SF it must be a NO.
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The right wing media has some cheek whipping up hysteria about bank robberies up north,what about anglo irish and nationwide down here?Re sf prospects what about meath,cavan,sligo,mayo ,laois,longford,wexford,as well as many dublin constituencies for starters.People with local info can add more.Its time the people rose up and said enough is far too much