Glasgow-born Sinn Fein politician Pearse Doherty who is seeking election in Donegal and could soon be Finance Minister in the Cabinet of the Republic of Ireland.

A political digest with
Jennifer Bray

Irish Times, Thursday, 06 February, 2020

Good morning.

With only 48 hours to go until polls open, we have finally entered the very last stretch of the Irish election campaign.

The exhaustion and emotion in the various camps is obvious, but, given the top three parties are within touching distance of each other in the polls, the fight for every last vote continues.

The final batch of leaflets is being distributed, social media managers will increase their efforts and candidates will flagrantly roam into their colleagues’ constituency territories.

Yesterday, Day 22, was dominated again by a focus on Sinn Féin. The news for the party at the start of the week was overwhelmingly positive with Sinn Féin taking the lead as the most popular party in the country for the first time in the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll series.

Proving a week really is a long time in politics (and that TV debates can be pivotal) all that changed within 24 hours.

Breege Quinn, the mother of 21-year-old Paul Quinn from Armagh who was murdered in 2007, spent much of the election campaign asking that remarks linking her son to criminality be withdrawn – and had given two emotional interviews with the BBC and RTÉ

Those remarks, she said, were made by the Sinn Féin finance minister in the North, Conor Murphy. On Monday night, party leader Mary Lou McDonald said she did not believe it had been said Mr Quinn was a criminal.

By Tuesday night on the RTÉ three-way leaders’ debate, the full comments had surfaced, and Ms McDonald said Mr Murphy would apologise.

Mr Murphy yesterday retracted and apologised for his comments he made claiming Mr Quinn had been involved in criminality.

The response of the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have differed somewhat. Leo Varadkar said the Quinn family were entitled to justice and truth, but he also made it clear that he didn’t want to make it an election issue.

Micheál Martin, on the other hand, criticised what he called the omerta surrounding the murder.

The question now is whether the controversy had has any effect on the Sinn Féin ascent or whether it scares away new voters, those keen for a change.

We will not know until this weekend as each party faces its reckoning on Sunday. Meanwhile the campaigns will hold either a final or penultimate press conference today before the broadcast moratorium kicks in tomorrow afternoon.

We will bring you every twist and turn on

Election Daily

If you’re short on time but want to catch up on all the main developments on the election trail, have a listen to the latest Election Daily podcast which is hosted by Hugh Linehan.  Most episodes are only around ten or 15 minutes long and will bring you up to speed. The latest episode can be found here.

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