Sinn Fein: O Caolain hopes for 'stronger mandate'
SINN Fein is trailing Fianna Fail by just three points in the first official opinion poll of the general election campaign.
The party is clearly cashing in on the protest vote in a shift to the left highlighted in today's Irish Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne survey.
Support for the party is currently at 13pc, meaning Sinn Fein could win up at least 22 seats in the next Dail.
And despite criticisms of his recent performances, the party's president and Louth constituency candidate Gerry Adams also saw his satisfaction ratings rise by three points to 31pc.
Sinn Fein, which had five TDs as the Dail was dissolved, yesterday said it is looking for a "greatly strengthened mandate". It is certain to get the seven seats it needs to have full speaking rights in the next Dail.
Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain said that his party needed this because it had been very difficult to make its presence felt in the last Dail.
"We were having to sit and watch Leaders' Questions and yet not having the opportunity to participate," he said.
Sinn Fein finally got full speaking rights in the past eight weeks when its new TD Pearse Doherty arrived, enabling it to form a technical group with the help of Independents.
Mr O Caolain defended the reputation of Mr Adams, who has been criticised for his knowledge of economic issues.
He admitted Mr Adams' 2007 general election leaders' debate was not his "best performance". But he said he would have no difficulty "fine-tuning his position" for this campaign.