'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.
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