Jack Lynch the idol
Jack Lynch commands the almost unanimous respect of the Irish people, with 86% believing he is doing well as Taoiseach. This is the most startling result of Magill's opinion poll on Fianna Fail's first year in office.
The poll also shows that Fianna Fail would win another huge majority were an election held now, and that 65% of the public thinks the Government is doing a good job.
The poll reveals that Charles Haughey is the decisive popular choice as successor to Jack Lynch.
George Colley comes as an unsurprising second choice with Michael O'Kennedy emerging as a surprising number three.
Fianna Fine Labour Others
decided adults 56·16 30·13 10·95 2·73
1977 Election 50·63 30·49 11·63 7·25
AMONG ADULTS WHO have made up their minds on how to vote, the Governnment would win 56.l6%ofthepoll,an increase of 5.5% on the June 1977 elecction result. But this increase comes not at the expense of the other two main political parties but from among thee"others" category and opinion polls are notoriously unreliable in assessing suppport for minority parties because of public reluctance to admit to identifiication with them.
The public opinion survey has deepressing significance for Fine Gael and Labour for it shows their support as static. This will be particularly dissheartening for Fine Gael which seemed to be showing indications of revival under new and energetic leadership.
But in a sense the honeymoon period has been a protracted one for Fianna Fail for most of its vote catching maniifesto promises were scheduled for immplementation in the first year in office and understandably the public has reesponded positively to the lowering of income tax, the abolition of motor tax, the £1,000 new home grant and the abolition of rates.
Both 1979 and 1980 will be years of austerity as the inverse of the bonanza package becomes relevant. Most notably, the Government is committed to a reeduction in the borrowing rate (that amount of public borrowing that is done as a percentage of all the wealth that is produced in society in a year, the GNP) from 13% this year to 10.5% in 1978 down to 8% in 1979. This will involve cuts in public expenditure plus some additional taxation, all of which will be unpopular.
In addition, the Government's prooposals for the creation of full employyment will entail further sacrifices by the community, either in terms of moderaation of pay increases or overtime in crements or in higher taxation, and again there will be further unpopularity accruing. So now is likely to be the high point of the Government's popularity for some years at least, it is downhill from now on.
There is one additional factor to be borne in mind. While Fianna Fail won 50.6% of the vote in June 1977 it won 57% of the seats in the Dail. Only twice before has any party won a surplus of seats over votes to this extent and with the setting up of an electoral commisssion to re-draw constituency boundaries, surpluses are likely to be held to around 2% or under. This means that even if Fianna Fail won the same percentage vote in the next election It would still lose about 7 seats throughout the country. Given that the party is unnlikely to fare quite as well electorally on
the next occasion, it would seem to be an inevitability that up to 10 Fianna Fail TDs will lose their seats! This factor should concentrate the minds of the bloated Parliamentary party wonderrfully as it contemplates the consequennces to the Green Paper.
A breakdown of the results on voting intentions shows that the Fianna Fail support is spread with remarkable evennness throughout the country, age groups and social classes and between the sexes. The Labour support is also fairly even, except it enjoys greater support among the working class sector (C2DE) where 11% express support for it.
Fine Gael support however is unnbalanced. With 22% of the overall vote among the population as a whole (i.e. inclusive of those who are undecided), its support in Dublin drops to 17%, it is very weak in the 15 to 19 age group (we included these in the survey for they will be voting in the next election) where it is only 14%, as compared to Fianna Fail's 34%: It is also very weak in the working class group (C2DE) where it attracts only 16% of the vote.
These results correspond closely to a private comprehensive survey conducted for Fine Gael also by MRBI (Ltd.) last autumn.
Stated current voting intentions:
Fail Gael Labour Others Not stated/Undecided/ Don't Know
% % % % %
41 22 8 2 27
Perception of Government performance
The Fianna Fail Government has been doing:
very Quite No
well well well badly opinion
% % % % %
11 54 20 8 7
JACK LYNCH'S PUBLIC rating is breath-takingly high with 86% believving he has done either very well or quite well. Of course the actual electoral vicctory would have enhanced him in popuular esteem, even among those who didn't vote for him, but still his rating is exceptionally high - higher than that record for any western leader in the last decade. The high point of Richard Nixon's popularity in America was 84%.
Lynch's massive popularity is a perrsuasive reason for his remaining in office until after the next election to ensure that the party, which will have to underrgo an inevitable turmoil of public hosstility in the meantime, will remain in power.
Charlie Haughey also enjoys strong public approval for his performance in office with 70% of the public believing he has done well. We have further analyysed Haughey's public approval results, which shows that his rating is uniform throughout the community among all age groups, social classes, urban/rural areas and between men and women. On page 22 we examine Haughey's lead in the poll on successor to Jack Lynch but it is relevant to note here how Haughey's 70% public approval rating compares with Colley's 56%, Des O'Malley's 53% and Martin O'Donoghue's 42%.
The surprise in both this poll and that on the succession is the high rating of Michael O'Kennedy. Nearly 60% believe he is doing a good job, while a mere 80% think he is doing badly. His high approval rating is in spite of one-third of the public having no opinion on how he is faring - this is partly an inndication that many people just don't know of him. '
We examined George Colley's public approval results and found that older people rate him more highly than younger people - an ominous indication for him in this predominantly young population. Perhaps predictably in the light of his ill-considered remarks about well-healed women, only 50% of women think he has done well as compared to 62% of men who think he has done well, although as pointed out on page 22, he fares well among women vis-a-vis Charlie Haughey on the succession issue.
Colley wins the approval of 72% of Fianna Fail supporters, while Haughey is approved by 83%. Colley is strong however among Labour supporters of whom 49% think he doing a good job. Of concern from Colley's point of view is his negative rating. With 28% thinking he has done badly he has the second worst disapproval score.
Des O'Malley fares badly in this poll as he does on the succession poll. Only 54% think he is doing a good job, while 24% believe he has done badly.
Brian Lenihan fares disastrously.
Only 26% think he has done well and a thumping 50% think he has done badly.
Other factors to emerge from this . poll include the relatively high disapprooval rating of Jim Gibbons. We have not done a breakdown of this but presummably there is a high proportion there of Fine Gael supporters who mourne the departure of one of the few successes of the coalition, Mark Clinton. Nevertheless, Gibbons does score relatively well on approvals with 49% thinking he has done well.
One of the possible, but as yet unnconsidered, contenders for leadership is Gerry Collins. He won a 51% approval and a relatively high 22% disapproval with a surprisingly high 27% having no opinion on his performance.
He may be glad to learn that of the age group, members of which he prooposes locking up in Loughan House (15 to 19), 43% have no opinion at all of him. His approval comes mainly from rural areas and among the older age groups.
Collins is saddled with an unpopular ministry and, if moved. out of it, he could emerge as a strong leadership conntender. There are reports that Jim Gibbons may go to Brussels in some capacity or another and, if so, Collins is favourite to be promoted to Agriiculture. This base would be far more propitious for him to launch an assault on the leadership.
But remember there is not just one leadership contest ahead. Haughey and Colley are both in the fifties and if either gets the top job within the next few years presumably they would-vacate it in ten years or so. By such time Collins would not yet have reached their ages as of now. The same, incidentally, is true of O'Malley and just about true of O'Kennedy.
Perception of performance of The Taoiseach and a number of Government Ministers
TOTAL Have done Have done Have not Have done No Mean
very well quite well done well badly op . Ratings
Jack Lynch: Taoiseach 35 51 6 3 5 3.23
Charlie Hauahey: Health/S.W. 26 44 9 7 14 3.05
Michael O'Kennedy: F. Affairs 14 45 5 3 33 3.04
Jim Gibbons: Agriculture 12 36 10 11 31 2.71
Martin O'Donoghue: Ec. Planning 7 35 9 8 41 2.69
George Colley: Finance 11 45 18 10 16 2.68
Gerry Coli ins: Justice 7 44 13 9 27 2.67
JohnWilson: Education 7 50 12 11 20 2.66
Des 'O'Malley: Industry/Comm 6 48 13 11 22 2.63
Brian Lenehan: Fisheries 3 23 21 29 24 2.00
Applied Ratings T (4) (3) (2) (1) -
Sample: 800 Adults: Republic of Ireland, aged 15 upwards
Magill rates the Ministers
HIS MAIN CONTRIBUTION was to the election victory in which his personality was a major factor and his main piece of work since then was carried out in the days before the change of Government in the choosing of the cabinet. It was a
clever exercise, though perplexing in part. The main victim of the departtmental re-shuffle seemed to be George Colley and Charlie Haughey was awardded with the prestigious combination of Health and Social Welfare, though this could yet transpire to be a hornets nest. Lynch has enjoyed the return to office, very much more than he anticipated.
He is very much in control as Taoiseach and although he allows his ministers to get on with their jobs there is no doubt, as there was in the 1966 to '69 period, about who is boss. He has been fully in command of the shaping of economic policy and he has handled Northern policy with consumate deliicacy, slipping almost imperceptibly off the hook of calling on the British to declare their intention to withdraw.
While he may not have intended it a year ago, we now believe that Lynch will remain in office after the next elecction and the truly remarkable Magill opinion poll results on his personal approval must be an inducement for him to do so.
WHILE LYNCH IS clearly the boss of the Fianna Fail outfit, the day to day manager of affairs is unquestionably George Colley. He played a major part in the election victory, first by plotting the election campaign, then by taking a leading part in the drafting of the maniifesto and finally by being persuasive and effective on television, in contrast with his performance in 1973. He was "screwed" in the departmental reeshuffle but as things have transpired he has lost little of his actual power in Finance as the Department of Economic Planning and Development just hasn't panned out as planned.
He made a foolish blunder over the "well heeled articulate women" but his competence is very apparent to those who watch him in the Dail and who observe his general performance. He is totally in command of his job and illldeserves the poor opinion poll rating which we report on opposite. As for his leadership hopes .... .It very much deepends on how the economy fares. If it goes well then his faction will be in the ascendency within the party, but if there are any major problems, then he could be in trouble. Not that it will be easy to defeat Haughey in a leaderrship' struggle, as of now the latter must be considered the front runner.
O'KENNEDY SEEMS TO have fared best of all Government ministers in popular esteem, according to the Magill opinion poll. Few would have even connsidered him as leadership material a year ago and yet now he is the third most popular choice as successor to Jack Lynch and enjoys a very favourable public approval rating.
It is perhaps all the more surprising, having stepped into the shoes of the only outstanding ministerial success of the Coalition, those of Garret FitzzGerald. O'Kennedy of course doesn't match up to FitzGerald's commanding grasp of international and especially European issues, but he has worked hard at his brief.
O'Kennedy has managed to cling on to the Northern brief, after it looked for a while that Jack Lynch was going to appoint Senator Eoin Ryan as Minister for State with responsibility in this area. Jack and O'Kennedy don't enjoy the best of relations on the Northern issue for it was the latter who somewhat surreptitiously persuaded the party back in November 1975 to commit ittself to the demand of Britain to declare its intention to disengage from Ireland.
HAS HAD MIXED fortunes during the year. The share-out of ministerial reesponsibilities gave him unprecedented ministerial powers but it hasn't quite worked like that. Primarily because of the Department of Finance whose offiicials have attempted to balk at every hands turn the accretion of powers by the new Department. But in addition to that, the civil service generally has failed to set up the planning units in each department which would have had horiizontal liaison with O'Donoghue's department, thereby giving him virtual supreme policy-making powers.
The formulation of the White and Green Papers have underlined the central role he continues to play in the Lynch cabinet. The two documents are basically of his construction.
CHARLIE IS BORED with Health and Social Welfare but for the first time, at least since Donough O'Malley was around, there is a minister in this area who has political clout, imagination and can take decisions. Now there is also a
minister with incomparable instincts for public relations. For although Haughey has a public approval rating of 70%, the fact is that he hasn't actually done that much yet in either Health or Social Welfare.
True he has announced the decision to go ahead with Beaumont Hospital but then that is in his own constituency and he has been assiduous about health care, but then that doesn't cost that much and money is the be-all and enddall of real power within Government.
The fact is that Charlie is isolated across the Liffey in the Custom House and Store Street. He played little part in the shaping of the Green Paper, beyond carping a bit about the implied threat of cuts in his area, but that was successfully smoothed over in cabinet, without the searing rows that were reeported in the press.
The real internal contradictions innherent in Fianna Fail are yet to emerge but emerge they will next year or in 1979, and Charlie is biding his time.
ONCE WIDELY THOUGHT of as a posssible successor to Lynch as Fianna Fail leader, John Wilson, as Minister for Eduucation, has emerged as a publicly brash, privately timid and uncertain man. His first year brought up clear issues of policy on money, community school management, the regionalisation of addministration, the encouragement of more democratic control of primary and secondary schools. On all of these he has remained uncertain and uncommmunicative.
Key questions of principle, involving the future relationship of Church and State on education, are raised by the Community School deed of trust issue which, when settled, will designate the representation on boards of manageement. Yet he will not state his mind clearly on this issue, one which has been raised continually during his first year in office.
DES O'MALLEY HAS been one of the great disappointments of the Government. He emerged for the period in opposition with an enhanced reputation having taken on and bested one of the most capable coalition ministers, Justin Keating. But since coming to power he has been almost invisible.
True he has been off in America and elsewhere on IDA business and has had involvement in Brussels on the threat to the export tax relief and also on steel and footwear, but he has done little about some of the more important facets of his governmental responsibiliities. For instance, he had virtually no innput into the Green Paper. The much trumpeted "Sean Lemas type Industrial Development Consortium" of which he is titular chairman has barely surfaced and has done nothing, the Credit Export Finance Corporation has failed to emerge, no new mineral ownership legisslation has emerged, the smelter project has stopped in its tracks, and the prices commission has not been re-structured. All these were promises in the election manifesto under the Industry and Commerce label.
In addition he seems to have been bamboozled by his Department and the ESB into the ill-considered Nuclear Power plant in Wexford. Maybe he will grow into the position but as of now the officials of his Department are mournning the departure of Justin Keating - no lesser compliment could be paid to O'Malley.
WE EXAMINE ELSEWHERE in this issue Collins' handling of the fingerprint affair and the Garda brutality alleegations issue and conclude that he has fared poorly. As seems to all Ministers for Justice, Collins has been gobbled up by his Department, although there were some initial indications that he was going to assert his independence there. His opening of the prisons to journalists and his amelioration of conditions in Portlaoise, were hopeful signs. His iniitial involvement in the fingerprint issue seemed as though he was determined to get to the bottom of the affair, but since then things have changed. He was pressurised into refusing a proper indeependent enquiry into allegations of Garda brutality, he has hopelessly connfused the fingerprint issue and has given into the worst atavistic impulses of his Department by agreeing to the Loughan House project.
In spite of all this, it must be rememmbered that Collins has, to a large extent, mastered the Justice brief without any legal training and has shown himself to be a tough and, in latter times, cool operator when called upon. He may be shifted to Agriculture if and when Gibbons goes off to Brussels and he would be much better suited to this role.
But don't underestimate Gerry Collins. The man is not alone shrewd and cunning, he is also very able and has shown the capacity to grow in office. However improbable it may seem to his old university colleagues, Collins may yet end up with the top job, even if he has to wait 10 years for it.