When they start using the wisdom of Meat Loaf, you know the campaign has taken its toll on politicians.

With the spectre of a hung Dáil looming, a candidate told me this week that politicians will do anything to avoid a second general election. Does that include doing deals with sworn enemies I asked. ‘We’ll do anything to avoid another campaign, but we won’t do that’ was the emphatic reply and the nod was duly given to the Meat Loaf lyric. You know the one where no one knew what he was refusing to do for love? I’m not sure it works in the political context, but it’s a clear indication that the race is nearly run and the campaigners are close to spent, in every sense.

The campaign has been relentless. Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald must have slept standing up on Sunday night. After her appearance on an RTÉ TV debate, which ran close to midnight, she was on breakfast radio a few short hours later and then on mid-morning radio straight-after. Enda Kenny was in Mayo, then he randomly popped up to give actress Angela Lansbury an award, while fighting off accusations that he insulted voters by calling them whingers. Jessica Fletcher would struggle to keep up. They all look wrecked, eyes hollowed, lines etched in places they didn’t know they had and a pallor akin to eighties floor lino.

Three more days of debates, shaking hands, ringing doorbells and it’s over to the rest of us to decide their fates. The polls tell us the Meat Loaf dilemma will be very real. The numbers tell us Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will have to get over themselves and work it out. Otherwise, it’s Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour.

Of course, it might be another combination altogether. We might just confound those clever pollsters in the privacy of the polling booth and come up with an answer no one expects. Politicians might have to leave the posters up and go through it all again if a deal can’t be done. If a government emerges in the coming weeks, we may have to dip into the Meat Loaf school of wisdom once again. I’d lie for you and that’s the truth?


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