Some weeks you find yourself scratching around for fodder for the weekend column. Mostly it goes something like this: what the hell am I going to write about this week? Should I gratuitously attack The Anorak for no good reason again (that's a joke by the way)or do another organ-grind of my favourite gripe that there are too many of them; that they're all over-paid; and that as our State has evolved, their main function has increasingly become to look after their own interests. There's an actual committee (chairman gets paid an extra 20 grand) called 'Members' Interests'. That for me says it all!
But not this week, like manna from Heaven, like the fatted calf for the prodigal son, like the loaves and the fish, the Irish Times opinion poll landed on our laps this morning.
Sure, there are only 1,500 shopping days or so until the Next Election. But this was telling in its own way.
The figures have been parsed elsewhere this morning (see the Irish Times main article here) Polls are crude instruments of measure at the best of times. What they are very good at doing though is recording big falls and big rises of support for the main parties.
So the rises for Fine Gael (+4) and Labour (+5) are significant as is the whopping nine point drop for FF.
The reasons for this: the debacle over provisional driving licences; the cynical pay rises they all accepted last week; and a first public verdict on Bertie Ahern's extraordinary account of his dabblings in international monetary exchanges.
The most interesting thing is that Ahern's own stock has fallen sharply. And what complicates this is that the Times decided to include the anointed one, Brian Cowen, in among the leaders for the first time. I spoke to a FF insider for whom I have a lot of respect last night who said that he was suspicious of the Times's motives in including Cowen and that it was deliberately throwing a cat among the pigeons.
But that's not really fair. Cowen is widely accepted as the heir to the throne and it's always good to get the public verdict on his performance.
The Greens? Holding up. Gormley will will be happy with his rating. 5% is what they got in the election. Their support rose up to near 10% on a couple of occasions but ultimately that was meaningless.