The newly formed Action Party continues to lead in the recent Red C poll in the Sunday Business Post. Excluding don’t knows, the poll puts the AP on 38%, FF on 24%, FG on 18%, Labour on 6%, Sinn Fein on 13% and others on 1%. Sources in the FG/Labour coalition said that “the only poll the government is interested in will be on polling day.”
Political pundits have called the continued strong performance of the Action Party extraordinary, considering that it is only a year old and has no TDs or senators. Suzanne Smith, the well-known businesswoman and party leader, continues to lead in the polls as preferred choice for Taoiseach. Tom Haskey of the Irish Times: “What’s interesting is the level of enthusiasm for the party. People either love it or hate it, and let’s be honest, the National Guard is the source of much of that strong feeling.”
The AP’s uniformed National Guard has been called “brownshirts” by the party’s opponents, but the party defends the 3500 strong organisation as a “community resource”. “It’s true, the National Guard has performed security duties for neighbourhoods and areas that have asked for them, and we do manage to deter anti-social activity by our presence, but who’s fault is that? If the government actually dealt with crime in this country we would not need to do their job for them.” Says Smith.
She also points out that the National Guard engages in visiting and helping senior citizens, cleaning up litter and graffiti. Tom Haskey again: “What is almost certainly contributing to the rise of the AP is the fact that their candidates can call on the National Guard to help them, not just with canvassing and political activity, but also in terms of delivering services. The National Guard has plumbers and electricians who help senior citizens with their blocked loos when the council is telling them it’ll take a month to get to them. Local businessmen in particular are turning to the National Guard when it comes to dealing with drugs being sold near shops, that kind of thing, and it’s all beginning to have an affect. Those business people tend to end up becoming party members and making donations to the party because they can see a real effect.”
In a recent interview on RTE, Smith was questioned about the obvious substantial financial resources available to the party.
“Yes, business has been very generous towards us, but real businessmen. Not the sort of people who go to Fianna Fail, give them a few quid, and are then able to create a bank that cripples the economy. Men and women, like me, who know what it’s like to run a small business and have to pay people’s wages every Thursday. People like that who want low taxes, less government interference in their lives, and want law and order. They’re giving us money, and I’m glad to take it.”
The party has been accused of playing the race card on immigration, a charge Smith denies: “We will have a more diverse slate of candidates than any other party, but let me be clear about our stance on this: Immigration, legal immigration, has been good for this country. What we have a problem with is illegal immigration, and why the government is not deporting the people it has said itself should be deported? We’re no more right wing than FF or FG on this, the only difference is that we will actually detain and deport the people that FF and FG say that they will, yet never do. As for this rumour been put out that we are attracting neo-nazis, that’s nonsense. We scrutinise and security clear every person who applies to join either the AP or the National Guard to keep out extremists, something no other party does. Unlike Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail, we don’t let people with criminal records join. I would also like to point out that we are the only Irish party that is actually pro-Israel.”
Smith has announced that she will contest Dublin South East in the general election, and that the AP will recruit two candidates in every constituency, a process which has already begun with the announcement of a number of high profile community, business and GAA figures declaring their candidacy.