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Irish General Election brings feverish excitement and oral electricity

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Party leaders on 'Primetime' RTE

I cannot escape from the tentacles of the election process for another week, so here is more of it from the dying days of the campaign which will finally end on Friday.

Anyway, as I keep saying, it is such great craic that it is almost worthwhile suffering a recession and the fall of a government to be surrounded by such feverish excitement and oral electricity.

Our letterbox has been stuffed for the past fortnight with such a weight of election literature that it has kept the two stoves glowing day and night. That is just one bonus.

I notice, incidentally, that the Labor Party literature and stickers are the best for kindling, Fine Gael's offerings last longest and strongest, and poor old disgraced Fianna Fail flares up like tinder and disappears before you can say Eamon de Valera. Sign of the times!

Canvassers have been very thin on the ground, and that is a big change. The party spokesmen keep talking on the airwaves about the messages they are getting from the doorsteps of Ireland, but the facts are that, certainly in rural Ireland, most of them are staying away from the doorsteps altogether and using the media.

They are probably wise to do that. They are not a popular species on the ground at present and, given the unemployment level and the new trend of drinking at home rather than in pubs to save cash, there are likely to be more strong and angry men behind the doorsteps than used to be the norm.

At the time of writing, with only a few days to go before polling, there is an intriguing equation developing by the minute.

According to all the polls and experts, it seems that Fine Gael are trembling on the brink of gaining an overall majority and being able to form a single party government without the support of the Labor Party. I don't think they will make it, but they will come close.

Ironically, their rising tide of popularity has been achieved by keeping party leader Enda Kenny off the airwaves as much as possible. Labor leader Eamon Gilmore has been heavily featured during the campaign as the next chosen leader of the country.

He is a bloody good orator but, amazingly, the more the plain people see and hear him, the less support his party attracts. I don't quite fathom that, but it is a fact.

Sinn Fein will come in with double the number of outgoing deputies, the Green Party will be hammered black and blue, a candidate called Ming the Merciless Flanagan from Roscommon has a good chance of being among the many independents elected, and my poor old former party Fianna Fail will be cut down to the bone.

That is because there are so many former friends like myself who are disgusted with their performance in recent years. More than any other element of the battle, I am fascinated by how far they will fall.

The once mighty monolith could be pared down as low as 20 seats. Incredible! Historic! I am horrified, mystified and delighted all at one and the same time.

Nobody around here is really tuned into the amazing revolutionary happenings all through the Middle East and North Africa these days. Nobody is interested in the upcoming royal wedding in England either, and that would normally have large audiences.

Nobody is tracking our economic mess on the numerous TV and radio shows dealing with it. Even the sports programs have lower audiences.

We are all tuned into the political battles and, sure, that is better for the peace of our minds.

I did, however, catch up with a fascinating documentary called The Story of Ireland by former colleague Fergal Keane last night. He goes away back into our history and will conclude bang up to the present.

In an earlier episode he suggested with some force that at one time there were significant Irish kings and kingdoms on the English mainland, controlling huge regions of the island. I liked that.

He also suggested that the real reason the Romans never invaded Ireland was because their sources told them that the country was a dank, poor island with a most inhospitable climate.

Those same sources told them that the Irish were a mad race and most of them were cannibals! That was never truer than it is this week.

By Sunday at the latest, allowing for recounts, we will have devoured enough politicians to fill a hundred big iron pots! We are lighting the bonfires now.........

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