That we are in uncharted political waters – local, national, and international – is, by now, accepted. A black man in the White House, the EU in stalemate, a puppet Prime Minister in Russia, Castro on his way out in Cuba… and Fianna Fáil trailing in the polls.
The Irish Times poll published earlier this month, had unprecedented results. It showed a huge surge for the Labour Party, at 24 per cent, which appeared to have overtaken Fianna Fáil, which is now at just 22 per cent. Fine Gael was coming out in the lead, at 32 per cent.
Good news for the Opposition parties, or so it would seem. But will the figures translate into votes when it counts?
Galway has never followed the crowd when it comes to national polls, and it’s hard to know now if even national polls are reliable, when the mood of the country changes with every bank-related utterance from either side of the House.
In 2004’s local elections, the Progressive Democrats beat both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to the top of the class, getting 22.63 per cent of the quota in Galway City, running six candidates and getting three elected. Fianna Fáil received 19.19 of the vote in Galway City, and seems to have completely messed up its strategy, fielding eight candidates and electing just two. Fine Gael, with 17.05 of the vote, won seats for three out of its seven candidates, while Labour, with 16.49 per cent, made the most of its vote and had four candidates elected. The Green Party had 7.27 per cent, and elected one candidate, from three. ‘Others’ – Sinn Féin and Independents – got 17.37, and elected just one councillor, Daniel Callanan.
In 2009, the situation couldn’t be more different. The Progressive Democrats no longer exist, although their three councillors, now Independents, look set to retain their seats. But it’s questionable whether they will command the largest percentage of the vote this time out.
For Fianna Fáil, mirroring the Irish Times poll might not be a bad thing – it would up their vote in Galway by three per cent. The essential thing here is vote management. The infighting has already begun in the Central ward, and Mike Crowe is not a man to give away votes in Galway City East.
For Fine Gael also, vote management should be a priority. Their strategy will to build on the Government’s unpopularity, but this could be difficult, as their only new candidate with much of a profile is Hildegarde Naughton. While Naughton is a strong candidate, Galway City West’s councillors are strong and will be hard to shift.
For Labour, the big winner in last week’s poll, the choices are different. With three out of the city’s 15 seats already (having lost Catherine Connolly since the last election), in terms of the national poll they are already punching above their weight. Gains will be hard to make in what’s already one of the party’s strongest constituencies, where a core Labour vote left the party upon Connolly’s defection.
The party’s best chance is Derek Nolan in Galway City East, especially if Daniel Callanan runs in the West as rumoured. If Nolan can capitalise on the swing, he’s in.
Because Galway already had a strong Labour base, and a comparatively weak FF and FG representation on the council, it’ll be hard to see how the poll is reflected here. No doubt some candidates who are already canvassing will have seen evidence of the swing already.