Political polling now part of the entertainment industry?

This Broadsheet.ie column appeared online on April 30th, 2019

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Over the Bank Holiday weekend, two Sunday newspapers published political polls. They were detailed. They were professionally conducted. But above all else, they offered very different insights into the state of the main parties.

RedC, polling for the Sunday Business Post, reckons that Fine Gael is pulling well ahead of Fianna Fáil. According to its findings, the ratings for the top 4 groupings are, in decreasing order: FG 33%, FF, 23%, Inds 16% and SF% 14.

Not so, according to B&A, polling for the Sunday Times (Ireland). According to its research, voters are now shifting significantly from FG to FF, putting Fianna Fáil in first place with 29%, followed by FG on 28%, SF 21% and Inds 10%.

The field work for both polls concluded around the same time April 16/17, though RedC did its field work over a week, while B&A took about almost two.

For an informative and detailed comparison of the methodologies employed by both sets of pollsters, check out Prof Michael Marsh’s blogpost on the RTE website.

Continue reading “Political polling now part of the entertainment industry?”

Forget Dear Kylie… it’s the letters Leo that won’t write that matter

This piece appeared on Broadsheet.ie on April 2nd. 2019:

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No matter how I try, I just cannot get worked up about Leo Varadkar’s hand written letter to Kylie Minogue.

I can see how some folks may see it as a bit cringey, but I also know that if I had been in Leo’s position back in 1989 when Frank Sinatra was playing Lansdowne Road with Sammy Davis Junior and Liza Minnelli, I would not have stopped at just writing a fan letter.

I would have happily agreed to replace Amhrán na bhFiann with The Best Is Yet To Come and offered to make Italian our first national language just to get an invite to the after-show party in the Horseshow House. I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky lucky… (Where did this come from?).

Continue reading “Forget Dear Kylie… it’s the letters Leo that won’t write that matter”

I admire Durkan, but he won’t get my vote in #EP2019 #EE19

This column first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on March 5th 2019

20150502_150039347_iOSThough this be hard for some folks to accept, I do plan these columns. My usual routine is to type up a few paragraphs late on Monday night and then finish off the column over coffee and toast on Tuesday morning.

This week, as I have a couple of meetings early today, I did it differently. Around 2pm yesterday I sat down in front of a blank screen and hoped for inspiration. As I started to type I was still unsure which one of two routes to pursue. Should I write a follow-up to last week’s column and respond to the online criticisms from Sinn Fein supporters for calling out their confusion on a border poll or should I write about Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan’s churlish tweet chiding the Seanad for doing precisely what it is supposed to do, scrutinising and amending legislation.

I had started to write some rough opening paragraphs on both topics when I received a piece of political news which wiped both options off my screen. A good friend called to tell me that it would shortly be announced that Mark Durkan would be Fine Gael’s Dublin European Parliament candidate.

To say I was flabbergasted is to put it mildly.

Continue reading “I admire Durkan, but he won’t get my vote in #EP2019 #EE19”

Laws, sausages… and money messages

This column on the perils of the “Money Message” first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on Feb 19 2019

McGarry

“There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make ’em: laws and sausages.” 

If my memory and a OneDrive word search are both right, this is the second time I have used this beloved Leo McGarry West Wing quote to illustrate a point. The first time was at the end of March 2018.

Back then, I was bemoaning this minority government’s blatant contempt for Dáil decisions with which it disagreed and was especially irked at how it was treating James Lawless T.D.’s Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017 and the various opposition amendments tabled to Shane Ross’s awful Judicial Appointments bill.

This time… well, it’s the same thing, only slightly different.

Continue reading “Laws, sausages… and money messages”

Debunking the first three myths of #Aras18

This Broadsheet.ie column looks at the upcoming Irish Presidential race (#Aras18). It debunks the following three myths about that election. 

  • The main parties want to deny us the right to vote.
  • Only for Sinn Féin there would be no contest
  • There is no way Michael D can lose

It first appeared online on July 17, 2018. 

20180625_163959857_iOSThough the 2018 Aras race has not officially started, it is already producing some political myths. Doubtless there will be many more before October, so no harm in putting an end to a few of the more tedious ones now.

Myth No 1. The main parties – or the Elites as the elite myth spreaders call them – want to deny us the right to vote.

This one is exposed by simple arithmetic. There are two routes to getting a nomination. The first is the Oireachtas one, where you need the backing of 20 members of the Dáil and/or Seanad. The second is the Council path, which means getting four city or county councils to propose you.

The Oireachtas route had been the preserve of the two big parties, but as their dominance started to wane in the early 90s, so too did their grip on the Presidential nomination process. Continue reading “Debunking the first three myths of #Aras18”

Real audience for Varadkar’s @UN Security Council bid not in NYC, it’s here

In this Broadsheet.ie column I welcome the Irish government’s campaign to win a seat on the UN Security Council, but wonder just who precisely was the target of the high profile launch in NYC…? 

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Last week the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister of State for Defence and the Minister of State for the Diaspora went on manoeuvres in New York.

While their jaunt was ostensibly to “launch” Ireland’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, their real purpose was more domestic.

It was an impressive display.

In addition to these four government members, curiously all of them from Fine Gael, were a former Irish President, the Defence Forces’ Chief of Staff, Bono, U2, a contingent of uniformed Defence Force members and an even bigger contingent of Irish political correspondents.

If UN Security Council (UNSC) seats are allocated on the basis of display, then Ireland should be a shoo-in.

But, UNSC seats are not won by those who just put on the best display.

They are won by years of horse trading and deal making.

Continue reading “Real audience for Varadkar’s @UN Security Council bid not in NYC, it’s here”

Lights, Camera, Inaction – @finegael is a production company, not a government

This Broadsheet.ie column appeared online on June 19, 2018

20180615_103600600_iOSAs part of the hoopla to mark Leo Varadkar’s first year as Taoiseach, Fine Gael produced a nifty infographic setting out some of the new leader’s biggest achievements.

The list offers an interesting insight into what the Taoiseach cares most about or, to be more accurate, what the Fine Gael pollsters tell him that his potential voters care most about.

Pride of place goes to the very frequently hyped national framework plan, Project Ireland 2040, followed by “Brexit Leadership” and the “8th Referendum”.

At the other end you find “and gardai” shoehorned into a claim about hiring more nurses and teachers, followed by curiously worded item on housing, though the word itself fails to make an appearance.

To avoid embarrassing Leo by putting a figure on the number of houses and apartments built over the past year, the copywriters had to come up with some phrasing that managed to convey the idea of progress, without breaching the standards in advertising code. The result is this extraordinarily clunky and impersonal boast that: “There were 4,700 exits from homelessness in 2017”.

“Exits”?

If ever a single phrase summed up Orwell’s description of political language “… as giving an appearance of solidity to pure wind”, it is surely this.

It reads as if it came from the pen of someone who writes real estate ads. You know the ones, where “open plan apartment” means the bed is between the cooker and the lavatory and “close to nightlife” means the place is directly over an all-night, bikers’ bar.

Continue reading “Lights, Camera, Inaction – @finegael is a production company, not a government”

The formats of recent #8thRef debates makes the case to set up an independent electoral commission now.

This piece was written for Broadsheet.ie and appeared online on Tuesday May 15th 2018, on the morning after RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Show debate on the abortion referendum: see HERE.  

CB debateOn the morning after the night before’s hyped-up #8thRef Claire Byrne debate: committed Yes campaigners are insisting that the Yes side won it while staunch No activists are declaring with equal ferocity that their side prevailed.

In my own view, neither side significantly moved the dial among undecided voters with the real loser in the whole sorry mess being public sector broadcasting.

This was not the fault of the presenter/moderator Claire Byrne or any of the lead speakers for the Yes or No sides, but of the folk in RTÉ who decided that having daytime TV style confrontation in front of a cheering crowd was the best way to discuss a fraught, complex and emotionally charged issue.

Continue reading “The formats of recent #8thRef debates makes the case to set up an independent electoral commission now.”

Be careful what you twitch for…

My Broadsheet column from May 1st looks at the poor political environment against which the CervicalCheck scandal is playing out  

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Last week’s Dáil furore and the heightened tensions between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael persuaded me to use this week’s column to discuss the worsening relations between the main government and the main opposition parties.

I still intend to do that, but in much lesser detail. The scandal engulfing the CervicalCheck scheme and the torment that Vicky Phelan, her family and hundreds of other families have been put through by the State and the HSE makes any discussion of the friction between the parties pale by comparison.

But, as experienced political commentators have noted, the screening scandal has the makings of major political crisis if it were to emerge that more was known by the Department and, by extension, by a Minister.

Continue reading “Be careful what you twitch for…”

Stop the campaign, I want to get off – where #repealthe8th campaigns stand now…

Here is my analysis of where the two sides in the upcoming referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment currently stand. It first appeared on Broadsheet.ie here

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Back in late 2014 I was invited to assist the nascent Marriage Equality campaign with its preparations. They asked me to help draft a campaign playbook, or ‘campaign bible’ as it was labelled by some, along the lines of the one I had put together for the successful 2013 Seanad referendum.

As part of my groundwork I tried to get some insights into the mindset of No voters. To this end I went for a few beers and a chat with an old political colleague who I knew to be quite socially conservative. I dragged the conversation slowly and steadily around to the topic of gay marriage and prepared myself for the explosion. None came.

“Have you decided how you will vote?”, I asked Continue reading “Stop the campaign, I want to get off – where #repealthe8th campaigns stand now…”