Gerry O'Carroll: Will pensioners give FG a vote, all for an extra fiver? Don't be so sure
IT'S amazing how a bad poll result can spook a political party.
A recent opinion poll clearly sent shivers down the spine of Fine Gael.
The Sunday Independent/Millward Brown survey showed that voters were turning their backs on the party. Support for Fine Gael has plummeted five points to 24pc, only one point ahead of Fianna Fail.
On that showing, the Government party's hopes of returning to power after the next General Election in 2016 have weakened.
The shambolic Banking Inquiry and the ongoing controversies surrounding Irish Water have contributed in no small way to Fine Gael's woes.
What must be just as worrying for party leader Enda Kenny is that the poll also shows that Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin has a popularity rating of 32pc - a full seven points ahead of the Taoiseach.
The poll also indicates that - despite all the trumpeting that our financial woes are over and that we have the fastest-growing economy in the EU - 79pc of people insist that they haven't experienced any improvement in their financial circumstances.
The dire results of this latest opinion poll clearly set alarm bells ringing at FG HQ. A week after it emerged we learned of Government plans to increase the State pension in the next Budget by at least €5 per week. Coincidence? I think not.
In fact, I could almost hear the sighs of relief from Government TDs.
The proposed pension hike makes it clear that the Government has not forgotten the thousands of pensioners - the so-called 'Grey Army' - who took to the streets of our capital during the recession to protest at changes to the over 70s medical card scheme.
The many thousands of elderly people who protested so vehemently forced the then-Government into a hasty retraction of that unpopular measure.
Fine Gael obviously looked on at the time of those 2008 protests and were very careful not to propose anything that would annoy older voters ahead of the last election.
Despite calls of 'auction politics', they clearly understand how important the grey vote will be next Spring.
With the ongoing anger over water charges, and our broken public health service, a rise in the State pension will likely prove a popular move. After all there more than 575,000 pensioners across this country.
I am no fan of 'auction politics', which often just equates to taxpayers' money being squandered in an attempt to buy votes. Despite this, I welcome the proposed increase in the State pension.
There has been no increase in this pension since 2008, seven years ago. Nobody could begrudge pensioners a few euros more - most of which will be spent, boosting the economy.
We're told things are on the up, but often it's the elderly - particularly those on State pensions - who are the last to feel the benefits of such a lift.
A few extra euros will bring a little cheer to their lives. It remains to see if they'll reward it with a vote though.
Two heroes show the dangers that our gardai face every working day
Over the past number of years the image of An Garda Siochana has taken a battering.
We have had the adverse and damaging reports of the Morris Tribunal into garda misconduct in Donegal.
We have had the penalty points debacle and the subsequent fallout that led to the resignation of Commissioner Martin Callinan.
Sadly these and other incidents have tarnished the reputation of the force and have undermined public confidence and trust.
It's a fact of life that in any large organisation - and there are 12,706 personnel in the force - there are bound to be controversies and scandals.
But at the end of the day the vast majority of the force are honest, hardworking police officers who carry out their duties on a daily basis in a professional manner.
In fact, members of An Garda Siochana risk life and limb in the course of their duties.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the heroic actions of two officers from the busy Kevin Street Garda Station last weekend.
Det Garda Diarmuid O'Donovan risked his life to enter a burning apartment and save an elderly woman after a fire broke out at her flat on Kevin Street. He was assisted by Sgt James O'Brien.
The pair were driving into their station when they spotted the smoke and rushed to the apartment. They managed to get in and pull the occupant free.
Neighbours and onlookers praised the courageous officers, whose prompt actions undoubtedly saved the life of the 72-year-old woman.
Despite the controversies I mentioned the work of these two officers shows the best of An Garda Siochana. I doff my old garda cap to both men.
Hands up the racist buffoon seeking office
Billionaire buffoon Donald Trump put his ignorant foot in it in recent days.
Appearing in a TV debate with other nominees for the Republican Party's presidential election candidature, Trump attacked a female TV host in disgusting manner.
Referring to Megyn Kelly, Trump (pictured above with his wife Melania Knauss-Trump) stated that there was "blood coming out of her wherever".
It was extraordinary that a candidate could come out with such a misogynistic remark. But it's astounding that the same candidate could lead the Republican field.
Trump is a racist and bigot. He kicked off his campaign by labelling Mexican immigrants "rapists" - and went downhill from there.
It's depressing. God help us if this smirking idiot ever gets within an ass's roar of the Oval Office.
Hero: Shane Lowry
This country loves a sporting hero and this week - deservedly - it's Shane Lowry. The 28-year-old golfer won the WGC-Bridgestone last Sunday, walking away with a cheque for €1.5m. Isn't it remarkable while Rory McIlroy is out of action that Lowry won a big prize? The world number one better watch out!
Zero: Joe O'Reilly
Wife-Killer Joe O'Reilly is once again attempting to make a mockery of justice in this country. Since his conviction for murder in 2007 he has lost in the Court of Criminal Appeal and is now appealing to the Supreme Court. This cold, callous killer should spend every hour of his sentence behind bars.