In the papers: Major Irish political parties stumbling

The falling popularity of two major political parties in Ireland would be no surprise to anyone who regularly reads the Irish daily newspapers. A recent poll covered by the Irish Independent gives the gist of the situation nicely, so I’ll link to four of the relevant articles here — along with some key quotes for those who want the shorter story.

First, a tiny bit of background information. The Irish government is parliamentary, with the nation’s legislative and executive functions fulfilled by a majority of Dáil representatives in a formal coalition. Occasionally, a single party can form a Government on its own. The ministers of the government work, among other places, from offices in the Government Building, pictured at right. Government BuildingThere are (currently) three major parties: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour. The first two have been major parties for decades, but Labour’s fortunes are more variable. For example, the Labour party was marginalised in the May 2007 election, but were elections held today, it might be the second largest party in the Dáil. Elections for the Dáil are held on an irregular basis, like the British parliament.

A note for those who read the articles (which are all from Friday’s paper):

  • The literal translation of Fianna Fáil is “Soldiers of Destiny” which may seem grandiose to non-Irish readers. But consider, US residents, that the Democrats and Republicans have similarly pompous names when taken literally. The phrase “Soldiers of Destiny” has (relatively recent) historical relevance as one of the Irish names for the Irish Volunteers — the army of the Irish War of Independence. By the way, Fine Gael, another major party, can be translated as “Family of the Irish”. Its name originates in the merging of three parties in 1933.

Fianna Fáil faces meltdown at polls

According to the poll, Fianna Fail are no longer the biggest party in the country. … [T]hey could be relegated to third unless Mr Cowen can stem the rising tide of public dissatisfaction with the Government. … According to the poll, Fianna Fail would lose anything up to 30 Dail seats if an election was called today. The findings are stark: just over one-in-five voters think their leader is doing a good job; one-in-10 are satisfied with the Government.

Fine Gael ahead but Kenny can’t land killer blow

Fine Gael is the best supported party, but party leader Enda Kenny can’t claim credit for it. … After almost seven years as leader, Mr Kenny ought to be gaining traction. His satisfaction rating was last this low in autumn 2003, when the Government was still embroiled in controversy over public finances and shortfalls in tax returns. … While a majority of 52pc want an election [now], when it comes to Fine Gael supporters, a less than resounding 56pc want to go to the country. Either Fine Gael supporters don’t want to get landed with current crisis or they are not confident about actually getting into power because Mr Kenny’s inadequacies will be highlighted yet again.

Gilmore capitalises on FF decline as support doubles

Labour Party supporters are gung-ho about a general election, with the party support doubling since the last run out. Labour’s support — at 22pc — is a full 12pc ahead of the last general election, an Irish Independent / Millward Brown IMS poll shows. Capitalising on Fianna Fail’s decline, party leader Eamon Gilmore has become by far the most popular party leader. Mr Gilmore’s satisfaction rating — at 52pc — is well ahead of his contemporaries. … The Labour Party’s rise in support is not solely based on a public-sector worker backlash either. Right across the social classes, Labour’s vote is evenly distributed. And Mr Gilmore is picking up votes from right across the political spectrum — from Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party.

Little appetite for Sinn Féin option as Greens escape the backlash

DESPITE seeing its coalition partner obliterated in the polls, it appears the Green Party is holding its own in government. The junior Government party has come in for stinging criticism from the Opposition in recent months, during which time it has endured a series of high-profile defections from its ranks. However, support for the party remains steady at 5pc — the exact same as the party vote in 2007 general election.