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A dull campaign, but results could have huge impact

Soon it will be safe to answer your doorbell again. This time next week, the local and European election votes should all be counted and the political post-mortem can begin.

The campaign may have been dull, but the results could be hugely important - if only because at least two party leaders have their necks on the chopping block.

At this stage, a few predictions seem reasonably safe.

Fine Gael and Labour will both be punished by an electorate that is fed up with austerity and the general air of drift around Government Buildings.

gains

On the other hand, Fianna Fail may fail to make any gains since voters have still not forgiven them for destroying our economy.

The biggest winners are likely to be Sinn Fein, whose anti-establishment message is getting stronger every day.

Since the campaign began, all four parties have been hit by some kind of controversy.

Alan Shatter’s resignation; Gerry Adams’ arrest; Micheal Martin’s bad day in Blackrock; and a Labour MEP’s call for her leader to quit, could all have become major turning points.

Instead, it looks as if these incidents have cancelled each other out, with the latest opinion polls showing Sinn Fein still on a high and Labour stuck in meltdown territory.

The Government will try to spin next weekend’s result as a classic case of mid-term blues. In fact, if this Dail term was a football match, we would be well into the second half.

It is now less than two years until the next general election - and Fine Gael and Labour need to pull off a comeback that would make Arsenal’s FA Cup final victory look modest by comparison.

One man in particular must have read the weekend’s polls with a growing sense of doom.

Eamon Gilmore is in real trouble now, with all three of Labour’s Euro candidates heading for defeat and their councillors set to fall like skittles.

His would-be successor, Joan Burton, claimed yesterday to be getting a good response on the doorsteps, which was about as convincing as Donald Trump’s insistence that his hair is 100pc natural.

Micheal Martin cannot be feeling much more secure.

The polls show Fianna Fail’s Euro prospects on a knife edge, with Mary Fitzpatrick struggling for the last seat in Dublin and a terrifying possibility of their two candidates in Midlands-North West ending up with no seat at all.

As the soap opera of Mary Hanafin’s Blackrock rebellion continues, it all adds to an impression that Martin has lost control of his party - and he may lose its leadership too.

Gerry Adams is poised to achieve one of his sweetest victories yet.

The Sinn Fein leader will clearly not be asking Google to erase his history any time soon, even though one recent poll suggested that over half of Irish voters believe he is a liar.

concern

His only real concern is a finding that the Shinners will do even better when he finally hands over to the much less tainted Mary Lou McDonald.

As for Enda Kenny, he may sail through next weekend unscathed since Fine Gael’s losses should be much smaller than Labour’s.

Even so, these elections are a wake-up call for his lacklustre Government - and the last thing the Taoiseach should do is press the snooze button.

Politicians in trouble love to trot out the old cliché: “The only poll that counts is on election day.” In just one week’s time, there will be no more room for excuses.


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