Three weekend opinion polls varied to such a degree that making predictions about how the next Government might be formed — or even led — became even more problematic.
In numerical terms the differences were not huge, though the undecided vote ranged from 9% to 17%, but even a shift of one or two points could prove decisive in the kind of mix-and-match kaleidoscope anticipated for the next Dáil.
One poll — in The Sunday Business Post — recorded a two point increase for Fine Gael (30%) and a fall of four for Sinn Féin (16%) and suggested the coalition’s campaign, which if it was one of the great old European folktales would be ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, might prevail.
Those figures suggest that a significant sector of the electorate have been convinced that a wolf may indeed be salivating at the door. Whether that fear can be sustained until voting on Friday is the mainstay of Fine Gael’s campaign. Those who do believe a wolf is at the door are absolutely right but maybe not for the right reasons.
One thing can be said with some confidence about the next Dáil is that if the conservative parties that have run this country since the State’s creation are returned to power, it will be their very last chance to address the growing inequities, marginalisation, the dangerous disconnect from the idea of a supportive society.
The growing exploitation of workers and young familes struggling to realise basic ambitions such as their own home cannot continue without having an impact on the politicial complexion of Dáil Éireann.
The shameful housing crisis, which is taking far, far too long to resolve, is a fizzing fuse too. Ireland’s unemployment rate among under 25s is 19% — Germany’s is 7% — even though we send far more students to third level than nearly any EU country, or that thousands upon thousands of that coterie are on questionable work schemes, many of which are little more than free labour for exploitative employers.
The 32nd Dáil will also be the very last chance those relatively moderate voices will get to confront self- serving professional bodies or public sector unions standing in the way of making this a more effective and progressive society.
The urgency of this issue was epitomised by the utter capitulation on the Legal Services Bill after extensive lobbying. It will also be the last chance to reshape, in a mutually sustainable way, tax deals with international corporations that use loophole after loophole to minimise tax bills.
In Feburary 2011, Mr Kenny’s coalition was given an unprecedented mandate for reform. That Government was so enthusiastically empowered that, for the first time in many years, an air of optimism was palpable.
There was a great hope that things might finally change for the better, but those hopes were dashed and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was squandered.
The Government’s economic achievements are significant but fundamental change remains a dream, and those who oppose it have won this round.
If they win the next round, then the traditional parties of power will be cast aside, a fate they would surely deserve.
The wolf is at the door and may even get in if another opportunity to reform this society and better promote equity and inclusion is squandered.
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