OK - guess which paper today has the following headlines:
‘Michael D fears Sinn Féin in Aras would endorse IRA’
‘Uneasy riders who do not understand the Republic’
‘McGuinness plays victim in election he cannot win’
‘McGuinness finds that it is a long, long way from there to Down Here’
‘Miriam moment was when the mask slipped
‘Victims of Troubles haven’t gone away, you know’
‘McGuinness shows no fear taking on ‘rotten-to-the-core’ civil service.’
All right, all right – today’s Sindo, of course, yes you were right but the thing is, why? The day after a poll which shows McGuinness slipping three points to 13% and Gallagher surging a million points to 39%, leaving Higgins stumbling in his wake, why is the Sindo focusing on McGuinness?
1. The Sindo writers are a lazy shower who had their stuff written and ready before the Red C poll came out at tea-time yesterday, and they were so busy searching under the bed for a Provo from 1973 that they hadn’t either time or energy to change a word.
2. They don’t believe a word in the Red C poll and are convinced that on 27 October, the man threatening their darling M D Higgins will be not the bald chap who looks like he got a welt of a hurley stick in the face at some point in the past, but Martin McGuinness.
A lot of people were surprised by yesterday’s poll, showing Gallagher at 39% , Higgins at 27% and McGuinness at 13% . I was surprised myself. If you were to believe it and the RTÉ commentators like the doe-eyed David McCullough, you’d conclude that the field had finally thinned out to two candidates, Gallagher and Higgins, and all the rest were also-rans. Mmm. Could be right. But then I think of how the most-used word in the British press a few days’ back was ‘inevitable’, in describing the resignation of that good Catholic and seller of arms Liam Fox; the previous day and week, none of the papers used the word ‘inevitable’ when speaking of Fox and resignation – only after the event. The media, in Britain and Ireland, have a habit of drawing insightful conclusions in the wake of something having occurred. Before the event it’s, um, on the one hand, maybe, it looks like, who’s to say, I dunno, etc. Now that the Red C poll has spoken, they’ll pile in to explain how they knew that all the time.
Maybe they’re right. But I still remember listening to the car radio in 1970 and listening to an astonished Ted Heath comment on his totally unforeseen win in the general election; I remember Neil Kinnock shouting at a mass rally “We’re aaaallll rriiiiiighhhtt!!’ and then getting his arse whopped at the polls a few days later. The Sindo, if you can bear to read it, will tell you that 63% of people thought Miriam O’Callaghan did a good job on Wednesday night; those of us with ears and eyes know that Miriam HAS a good job ( €300,000 + at last count) but most certainly did not DO a good job on Wednesday night, not if your criteria are balance and equal treatment. On the criterion of doing her damnedest to subvert McGuinness’s candidacy, she was great. So yes, the Red C poll says there’s just Gallagher and Higgines left, but it was done before that infamous debate. A very persuasive medium, telly.
A final word: let’s leave McGuinness out of it for a moment, OK? That means the people of the south are poised to elect as president a man who was on TV in something called ‘Dragon’s Den’, who thinks skipping is a quality the Irish people value in their president, and who has been, all his adult life, an activist in the political party that nuked the Irish economy for decades to come. Either that or they are poised to elect a tired-looking little man who has been a professional politician for the last 30 + years, whose party (Labour) is currently doing in government what it swore it wouldn’t when running for office. In short, the Irish people of the south are poised to revert to the notion of the Aras as a rest-home for old politicians or they’re going to send a slightly odd-looking life-long activist from the political party that slashed and burnt the Irish economy to a near-terminal point.
Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I can’t see the Irish people of the south being quite that stupid. Can you?