Let the General Election Games Begin

Written by Tara Mulvany

It looks like the run up to the general election has well and truly begun. Despite the recent Irish Times/IpsosMRBI poll revealing dire popularity ratings for the Government, a motion of no confidence in Enda and yesterday’s water charges protest, it’s still been an interesting few weeks of public relations activities for Fine Gael.

First we had the breaking news that Minister for Health Leo Varadkar visited the ambulance service and joined their “first responder” team in treating an ill man who collapsed at an event in Dublin.

Despite the Minister’s protestations on the Marian Finucane show that he hadn’t intended the visit to be publicised, extensive images and reports of Varadkar’s involvement ended up on national print, online and broadcast media.

And while I don’t question the Minister’s sincerity for one moment, it was a happy coincidence that the visit took place just ahead of HIQA’s major, and quite critical, review of the national emergency ambulance service.

Next up, and driving Twitter wild, was Enda’s visit to Pantibar. Stunt or not, the festive visit was at the very least a small symbol of progress for the LGBT community, not to mention a great photo opportunity! Timed perfectly, yet again, in advance of owner Panti Bliss (Rory O’Neill) receiving a Person of the Year Award.

These small gestures aren’t likely to ward off the negative impact of the water charges, the full wrath of which we saw yesterday. But Fine Gael have been quick off the mark in the election race and it’s no wonder with their strategy adviser Frank Flannery being quoted in the Irish Times saying that Government parties have “until the end of March” to salvage their election prospects.

Sounds like the next three months will be interesting. Let the games begin!

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