Smaller Parties Contest Final Debate
Last night party leaders from Labour, the Green Party, Social Democrats, Aontú and Solidarity-People Before Profit participated in a televised leaders’ debate, the final of this three-and-a-half-week election campaign. The debate, which featured parties who have all been on the opposition benches, was lacklustre. These parties are largely in agreement on policies to address housing and health, the two issues which have dominated this campaign. While Ruth Coppinger TD argued for radical left-wing policies such as a nationalisation of the construction sector, the party has said it will not enter government with either Fianna Fáil orFine Gael. It was a question put to Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan over the reintroduction of wolves which proved to be he highlight. Ryan has previously called for wolves to be reintroduced to Ireland.
Poll of Polls
After three and half weeks of many unexpected twists and turns, the below ‘Poll of Polls’ perhaps best describe the volatility of general election 2020. This is where we stand:
There simply is no predicting who will govern this country following the outcome of Sunday’s election because both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have ruled out going into government with Sinn Féin which forces the obvious but complex conclusion that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will have to govern with each other or the country will face another imminent general election. A second election would allow Sinn Féin to run candidates which could give the party a historic opportunity to emerge as the largest party in the state. However, we’ll have to get through this Sunday before even contemplating a second vote!
On the Campaign Trail
Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has defended his party’s decision to place Brexit at the core of its election strategy, despite the issue remaining in the background for the duration of the campaign. He was responding to media reports that claimed internal party sources were critical of the Taoiseach. While Varadkar has performed strongly in leaders’ debates, Fine Gael at times struggled to deal with the heavy emphasis on housing and health. The Taoiseach has also warned of real difficulty in forming a government once voters deliver their verdict.
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice Jim O’Callaghan has been responding to a front-page story on the Irish Independent which claimed the barrister had acted on behalf of former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in a defamation case. The Taoiseach said the revelation; “is just further proof to me that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are just itching to get into bed together.” However, O’Callaghan defended his 25 year career as a barrister and reiterated his position that a barrister must defend a client unless there is some reason he or she cannot act.
Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald is campaigning in her own constituency today and has called for voters who want change to come out and vote for her party. Sinn Féin has managed to shrug off the issue of comments made by Conor Murphy on this the final day of the campaign. However, the controversy dominated the final days of the campaign and it remains to be seen what extent, if any, the negative coverage has damaged its support base.
The Labour Party’s spokesperson on health Alan Kelly has said the crisis in health has been the forgotten issue of the campaign.Kelly noted; “Less than 24 hours before Ireland goes to the polls and we have 450 patients on trolleys in our hospitals, with 55 people waiting on a bed in University Hospital of Limerick, alone.” Kelly has largely been in the background of Labour’s campaign. A critic of party leader Brendan Howlin, Kelly may mount a leadership challenge should the party fail to make moderate gains.
The Green Party will feel frustrated as we enter the final hours of this campaign. Despite experiencing a ‘Green Wave’ in last May’s local and European elections, where the environment was a central issue, the party has struggled to find its feet in a campaign dominated by housing, health and law and order.
The Social Democrats co-leaders Róisín Shorthall and Catherine Murphy are spending the final hours of the campaign in Wicklow where the party is focusing resources on its candidate Jennifer Whitmore. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both hold two seats in Wicklow and both parties are under pressure from Whitmore as well as the Green Party. The Social Democrats are hopeful of tripling their representation from 2 to 6 seats although they may come up one or two short of that target.
Quotes of the Day
“You said the wolves could keep down the deer population, but deer run quite fast, sheep not so much. So why would the wolves go after the fast-moving venison instead of the slow-moving mutton?”
– RTÉ presenter David McCullagh quizzes the Green Party leader over his judgment in calling for the reintroduction of wolves