I wanted England to win their bid for the 2018 World Cup. No, really. You’d have needed a heart of stone not to feel a twinge in your gut for poor Willie Windsor, David Cameron and especially David Beckham as yesterday’s decision was announced. All those millions of pounds and dozens of flights and hours of schmoozing – for what? Nothing. Russia got the gig, not England. Willie W and David C were upset because they don’t like to be associated with a loser; David C, who unlike the other two knows and loves football was gutted, sick as a parakeet, proper devastated. The blame for this awful showing (England got just two votes, one of them from their own representative) is being placed on the media, particularly a BBC Panorama programme days before the event, claiming all sorts of corruption within FIFA. If it hadn’t been for that, we’re encouraged to believe, football would have been coming home.
Would it? It doesn’t do to over-estimate the power of the media. For years newspaper commentators in the twenty-six counties told us that Sinn Féin were finished south of the border. Beaten, done, a busted flush. One commentator, Senator Eoghan Harris, took a public £100 bet with me at odds of 10-1 that Fianna Fail would mop up the remaining Sinn Féin seats at the next election. Ooo-er, Eoghan. Yesterday a Red C poll indicated that Sinn Féin in the south have just passed out Fianna Fail, 16% to 13%. If those results were extrapolated across the state in the coming general election, far from mopping up Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail would win fewer than twenty seats and Sinn Féin would go from five to around twenty-five.
Will it happen? Unlikely. Such a generalisation ignores the intricacies and quality of candidates in the various constituencies. Things won’t be as bad as they look for Fianna Fail and not as rosy as they look for the Shinners. But clearly political earthquakes are on their way. Fianna Fail will take a terrible kicking in the voting booths, Fine Gael and Labour will benefit but not as much as they should, leaving Sinn Féin in a position to catch much of the disillusionment with Fianna Fail.
What does all this teach us? That most of the world don’t like the English much, that most of the south can’t stand Fianna Fail, and that if the Sinn Féin electoral wagon continues to rattle along, its gathering momentum will worry not just Fianna Fail, but Fine Gael and Labour as well.