Cowen halts slide despite Budget cuts and job crisis
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has halted Fianna Fail's slide in support despite swingeing Budget cuts and record levels of unemployment.
A new poll reveals backing for his party has marginally increased while satisfaction with the Government is up by a substantial 5pc and his own rating has also risen.
But Fine Gael still retains a 10pc lead on Fianna Fail and the Labour Party is holding on in second place.
The poll finally reverses declines in support for Mr Cowen's administration.
Fianna Fail's support is up 2pc to 22pc on the back of the Government's overall satisfaction rating also rising substantially by five points to 19pc.
Just as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan declared in the Budget that the economy had "turned a corner", so too have the poll figures for Mr Cowen's party, his coalition and his own rating is positive.
The Budget, which was well-received outside of the public sector and by those entirely dependant on social welfare, has not given Fianna Fail any major bounce in support.
But the increase in poll figures on Mr Cowen's side will be viewed as a positive response to the Budget. The Taoiseach now has a satisfaction rating of 26pc -- up three points from the last poll taken at the end of September.
The Government's satisfaction rating at 19pc, in the 'Irish Times'/Ipsos, mrbi poll, still means fewer than one in five people think they are doing a good job.
Mr Cowen placed enormous importance on getting over the three major hurdles of late last year -- the Lisbon Treaty referendum, the passing of the NAMA legislation and the implementation of €4bn of spending cuts in Budget 2010.
His government has also received an enormous degree of goodwill from Mr Lenihan's disclosure of his fight against cancer. But the Coalition recently came in for criticism over its handling of the weather crisis.
Fine Gael are once again up one point to 32pc, with the rating of party leader Enda Kenny dropping by 1pc to 31pc.
For Mr Kenny's party, this is the 20th poll in a row where the party is ranked over 30pc and the largest party.
And it's the highest New Year figure for Fine Gael, which is normally a period where the government parties get a lift.
Labour will also be satisfied, despite being down 1pc to 24pc, and Eamon Gilmore remains by far the most popular leader in the country, up 1pc to 46pc.
The junior coalition partners, the Green Party, are down marginally to 3pc, but Environment Minister John Gormley saw his rating rise by 2pc to 24pc.
Sinn Fein is down 1pc to 8pc and party president Gerry Adams is up 3pc to 31pc, despite being embroiled in controversy over the handling of abuse allegations in his own family and the Republican movement. And independents are steady at 11pc.
Meanwhile, ministers are "afraid" to go abroad due to the intense scrutiny over their travel expenses, according to David Cooney, head of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The claim came after Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue was forced to resign last year in the wake of revelations about the extent of his foreign-travel spending in that office, and while he was tourism minister.
"I'm worried that people are afraid to travel because of the publicity that attracts. We have to promote ourselves abroad. If we don't, we will not prosper as a country," Mr Cooney said.
At the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, Mr Cooney said he had issued guidelines which specified that ministers on official travel should be given a "good room in a good hotel" -- as opposed to five-star hotels.
He added an embassy car should be given to transport ministers, with limousines hired "on the odd occasion" for prestige or security.