From top: Red C poll results in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post; Ireland Thinks poll results in yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday; newspaper panel on RTÉ’s Weekend on One;
On RTÉ Radio One’s Weekend on One.
Brendan O’Connor was after speaking to the show’s newspaper panel about yesterday’s most recent general election poll results when he referred to a “narrative” of the election that “this country is not doing well”.
During the newspaper panel section, Mr O’Connor spoke to the former leader of Fine Gael and former chairman of IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, Alan Dukes; political scientist at UCC Theresa Reidy; political reporter at The Irish Times Jennifer Bray; director of the ESRI Alan Barrett and Anna Marie McHugh, of the National Ploughing Association.
During their conversation, Mr O’Connor referred to an article by Richard Colwell, the CEO of Red C Research, in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post entitled ‘Youthquake a possibility as younger voters flock to Sinn Féin’.
He then had the following exchange with Mr Barrett.
Alan Barrett: “Very often, it’s digging down into the poll is as interesting as the poll itself and just to distil a number of themes. I suppose, as an economist, it won’t surprise you that I sort of, you know, focus on the economics bit on this and let me explain what I’m thinking the following way.
“Do you remember the phrase ‘it’s the economy, stupid’? And this was a mantra I think a lot of political people thought was a pretty sound way of running elections. This is really, really interesting.
“Because what we have in Ireland at the moment is, we have and economy that’s doing extremely well and we also have a poll which is telling us that the people actually trust the governing party, in this case, Fine Gael, most on the economy.
“And I think, and I’m looking at Theresa [Reidy] now, as the political scientist, in most countries in the world, if you have those sorts of numbers. There’d be a very high probability that the governing party was going to be re-elected. But in Ireland, we’re in this situation now that it looks like this will not be the case…”
Brendan O’Connor: “A narrative has emerged here…”
Barrett: “It has…absolutely…”
O’Connor: “That this country is not doing well. And a lot of people in the country are not doing well and that’s been the narrative of this election.”
Barrett: “It has and obviously it’s getting traction, ok? But if you look at things like, you know, the standard things we look at, in terms of employment and wage growth – they, very, very often, those are really sort of the main drivers in this sort of situation.”
Barrett: “Let me come back to what I was saying, for fear there was a misunderstanding. All I was saying is, across the globe, ok, it tends to be the case, when the economies are going well, governing parties get elected.”
O’Connor: “But that’s what I’m asking. What’s the disconnect here?”
Barrett: “Well, clearly, clearly we do have major challenges in the area of health and housing, there’s absolutely no doubt about that, the childcare issue I think has been…you know, I think we all understand it and we all know that these issues are in play and they’re very, very challenging.
“And clearly then the way, the narrative of the election is sort of unfolding is that people are attracted to the parties whom they feel over more hope in these areas and that’s a perfectly reasonable and understandable thing.”
Alan Dukes: “First of all on the childcare issue, yes there are problems, yes there are problems of cost and availability. The fact remains…”
O’Connor: “It’s a problem of childcare, commuting and housing, it’s those three things coming together.”
Dukes: “Yes and when you look at the current state of provision and compare it with what was in 2011, for example, the improvement is huge. It’s certainly not at the point that suits everybody but the improvement is huge…”
O’Connor: “Why have Fine Gael lost control of the narrative then? Why are they not able to get the narrative you’re just talking about there?”
Dukes: “Because I think…”
O’Connor: “Longer life expectancy, lots of good health outcomes, unemployment way down. Where has that got lost in all of this?”
Dukes: “Because I think there’s a natural tendency in all of us to take the progress that’s been made for granted and to want more.”
Listen back in full here