A few months ago Magic Mushrooms were banned in this country. The reason a family lost a son to a magic mushroom related accident and someone got in contact with Joe Duffy. After the story got aired Joe was flooded with calls demanding the closure of all these shops. Eventually Mary Harney capitulated and magic mushrooms were banned. Ridiculed by many as the whineline Joe Duffy on Liveline has come the voice of the elderly. While we have the youngest population in Europe it is the elderly that go to the polls and the youngsters that say at home. This gives this section of the community a powerful voice that their numbers may not merit.
This election power was demonstrated in Limerick during the last European election. Ger Hannan is a DJ (and I believe owner) of RLO radio in Limerick. Which at the time of the European election was running I believe as a pirate radio station. It was basically a pleasant talk show for the elderly where regular contributors would call in like Kitty in Kilfinan, Father Joe Young and Jim from Ulla and generally talk about the good old days, how much they disliked Angela’s Ashes, sing a traditional song and give out about the youth of today( I remember UL students being banned from ringing in). Gerry Hannon stood in the European Election as an Independent in an effort to save RLO. He gained 6,394 first preference votes. The majority of which were in Limerick East. If he were to run in the next election (and there are rumours ) it would be quiet probably that he would take a seat and certainly stir things up in Limerick.
As Enda Kenny is tucking into his Special K this morning he must be a happy camper. In recent months Fine Gael’s popularity in the polls was poor. Despite the victory in the European Elections where Fine Gael got more seats then Fianna Fail for the first time in the history of European elections. It looked like Fine Gael might not do much better in the next election.
However the latest poll places Fine Gael at 28% in the poll just 3% off Fianna Fail and with their coalition partners in Labour coming in at 15% they would look on those figures to be sure of a win.
Fine Gael in the last few weeks have dominated the media coverage. Their poster campaign and their drunk tank rhetoric of the Ard Feis. Which filled many column inchs although not much of it was positive Fine Gael still got the benefit. Perhaps for once showing in Ireland that there is a large conservative portion of the country that probably see a liberal biased press. Who don’t want to see people talking about the rights of people on bail but want to see the rights of the elderly on trolleys. This is not people who talk about the social problems that cause drug abuse they talk about how drug abusers should be moved off the streets out of site.
This is the part of the electorate that Fine Gael can appeal too with tough measures. However this part of the election is also the same part of the electorate is still much divided by the civil war. To many of them the battle is still marked by De Valera, Jack Lynch, Costello, Fitzgerald and Cosgrave these views are often sealed with blood during the civil war. However they are more likely to go to the polls then the younger voters. If you can capture this vote then you are on to a good thing.
One thing that might have solidified the support for Fine Gael in the latest poll was the recent documentary on A&E and the sight of elderly people on the trolleys might well be the thing that will make people who sided with Dev on the Civil war may be willing to change.
Much has been made of the fact that Fine Gael do not have that much alternative policies to the government just having billboard campaigns highlighting the problems in the system. But maybe this is all they need. Many elderly people will not be swayed by policies on this and but the thought of ending up on a trolley maybe just what is needed to make Fine Gael pick up this vote. While Fianna Fail will not do anything to anger them like reduce the blood alcohol levels they are unlikely to do anything for them. In many ways this vote has been ignored by the government where people had only had the option to talk to Joe. Now perhaps they will talk and vote for Enda.