Election 2020: What we've learned so far

After three full days of campaigning, it is time to look back and examine what we have learned about General Election 2020 so far:

Election 2020: What we've learned so far

After three full days of campaigning, it is time to look back and examine what we have learned about General Election 2020 so far:

Brexit

Fine Gael seems to want to talk about Brexit. A lot. Even if most people don't care, as evidenced by Richard Chambers' report on Virgin Media TV from Birr.

When Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked what was he going to do for the area, he said he will negotiate a good Brexit deal.

The voters he was talking to dismissed his answer, saying they don't care about that, stressing they wanted to hear about health and housing.

Fine Gael has pinned its hopes of success on Brexit and while it may have given the party some comfort in the opinion polls last year, it is not working so far.

Fianna Fáil is slow to reveal its plans

While doing what it is supposed to in kicking Fine Gael's record in office, a trend has emerged about Fianna Fáil's approach to the campaign. And that approach appears to be not to reveal any of its plans.

At the party's campaign launch press conference, Micheál Martin was pressed on matters relating to housing, the economy and justice and what he planned to do to improve matters.

Every time, he said he was not going into specifics and they would come another day.

The party's Housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien took part in a panel discussion on RTÉ Radio with Minister Eoghan Murphy and other party spokespeople and again refused to detail his plans to fix the housing crisis.

His defence was he is planning to reveal all sometime next week.

The lack of detail could lead a cynic to conclude that either their plans are not yet ready, which is worrying or the party cannot decide what it wants to do.

Events

Despite the best efforts of the parties to set out their stalls, a series of shocking events this week have dominated the agenda.

Similar to the 2016 General Election campaign, justice and law and order have been catapulted to the top of the political agenda.

The horrific abduction, killing and dismembering of a 17-year-old boy Keane Mulready-Woods shocked many across the country and dominated the first 48 hours of the campaign.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar travelled to Drogheda today to offer support to the town.

But Mr Varadkar scored a spectacular own goal on Wednesday when he sought to politicise the tragic incident of a homeless man being left with life-changing injuries after a city council vehicle picked up his tent along the Grand Canal.

He called on Fianna Fáil Dublin Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe to take political accountability for the incident, a call which Mr Martin described as “extraordinary”.

Presidential Campaign

As had been predicted, much of the focus of the campaign so far has centred on the two men who are seeking to be the next Taoiseach – Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin.

Fine Gael has deliberately sought to capitalise on Varadkar's personal popularity and will also seek to lean on Tánaiste Simon Coveney's increased standing following a solid Brexit for him.

But the most consistent and most energetic performer from Fine Gael's side has been Paschal Donohoe, who is at risk of over-exposure.

For Fianna Fáil, Martin has managed to get through the first few days without any major calamities and clearly is seeking to present himself as more human, more empathic, more understanding than Varadkar.

The other parties have struggled for airtime and oxygen but week two of the campaign is likely to see more focus on who are likely coalition partners.

Goodbye to the independents

One of the consequences of the election being called, is that it brought declarations from senior politicians who have decided their race in national politics is run.

Independent ministers Finian McGrath and John Halligan as well as Dublin-Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan were among the most prominent TDs who have decided not to run for another term.

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