The Asgard, Christy Moore and the Demise of Civil War Politics

4th March, 2009

What all of these themes have in common would be a mystery to, I imagine, most readers. The answer is contained in a wonderful article by Elaine Byrne in yesterday’s Irish Times, available here. Elaine is a relatively new columnist, writing a column each Tuesday for the Times. Her articles are so striking because she manages to combines wonderful and striking images with incisive commentary on the political challenge of the week. Her article yesterday was the best so far. It went from the Asgard, memories of teenage joy on the open ocean, the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis to the decline of civil war politics. The first few paragraphs in particular were beautiful.

Elaine Byrne
Elaine Byrne


The reason for writing this note is not just to note a wonderful article. Elaine picks out a trend in the recent opinion polls that has not received much attention. A lot of the discussion has been about FF going into freefall, FG overtaking them and Labour doing very well. However as the article points out the two civil war parties are just 4% away (at a combined vote of 53%) from not having a majority of the poll. In 1982 the combined vote of both parties stood at 84.6%, in 2007 it was 68.9%. The latest polls put it at c55%.

This is described as uncharted waters for Irish politics. It is, but I think it is evidence of a broader volatility in the Irish electorate. We are now entering a period where there is no floor on how badly a political party can do, but also no ceiling on their success. What all of this means is that ideology and policy will matter again. If you are not sending out a clear signal to the country about your principles, values and the policies that flow from them then you will entirely at the mercy of a demanding electorate.

FG have been doing this over the last 6 months. When we stick to a principled and strategic view of how the country could do well our image and standing with voters improves. When we move away from this we do badly. Our coming Ard Fheis will allow us to emphasise our policy credentials again. It’s clearly vital that we do this.