On the 8th of February, the country will head to the polls to elect the 33rd Dáil. So far in the campaign, health and housing have proven to be major issues. With a country in the midst of a winter flu and a housing and homeless crisis, Fine Gael have been put under pressure by all parties for failing to address problems in these sectors. In response, the party has pointed to some increased investment in recent budgets and has promised a lot more. Opposition parties will look to keep the focus on these issues rather than those perceived strengths for Fine Gael such as Brexit, the economy and recent referendums like marriage equality and the 8th amendment.
What makes this election so competitive is the fact that the two main parties are so close in the polls and either could come out on top after votes are counted. Poll numbers have been varying considerably and a competitive run in to this election is expected. Sinn Féin looks likely to remain the third-largest party in the Dáil. After poor European and local election results the party is looking to bounce back and has seen some poll gains so far during the campaign. The centre-left of Irish politics looks very crowded in this election. Labour and the Social Democrats are struggling to stand out with both parties chasing similar voters along with Sinn Féin and the Green Party. The Greens are almost certain to gain on their 2 current Dáil seats. The party has seen a huge surge in support from young people. The chairperson of the UCD Greens Lisa Murnane, which is the largest political society on campus told the College Tribune, “We have a lot of young and energetic candidates, which might give us a boost in this election.”
Whichever party comes out in top will face another huge challenge in forming a government. For one party to win an overall majority is almost impossible. Labour, the Social Democrats and the Greens would all be potential junior coalition partners as well as independents. Major parties would have to make major policy concessions to junior parties if they hoped to form a majority. At this moment, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have ruled out a coalition with Sinn Féin. With over a week to go before polling day, all parties know that there are still many undecided voters who could shape the outcome of this momentous election.
Conor Paterson – Politics Editor