FF pulls ahead as FG faces meltdown
Latest poll shows promissory note deal has not boosted the Coalition
A SECOND opinion poll in a fortnight has confirmed Fianna Fail's new position as the leading party in the country. Significantly, this latest nationwide Millward Brown opinion poll was taken in the immediate aftermath of the promissory note deal.
The poll in today's Sunday Independent reveals that the people believe the Coalition of Fine Gael and Labour has, after less than two years in office, squandered the mandate it received from voters to rescue the Republic.
The stark figures also reveal that Fine Gael, just two years after it almost secured an overall majority, is at the edge of experiencing a similar meltdown to that suffered by Fianna Fail and Brian Cowen in 2011.
Fine Gael's current poll rating of 25 per cent means that if this was repeated in a general election, it would lose more than 20 seats.
But the party is also at a dangerous tipping point, as a further decline in support would result in the loss of up to 40 seats.
Astonishingly, today's poll also indicates that the most likely alternative government, in numerical terms, consists of a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein coalition.
But whilst FF, with 27 per cent, and Sinn Fein (20 per cent) would have the seats to form such a coalition, it is more likely that FF strategists are looking closely at the more attractive alternative of a Fianna Fail-Labour coalition.
Critically, the first nationwide opinion poll since the promissory note deal has also revealed that the 'historic' agreement has failed to reverse an accelerating slide in support for the Coalition.
Instead, the figures confirm that the Government, which secured the largest Dail majority in the history of the State, would not be returned to power if its current level of support was to be repeated in an election.
The poll reveals that less than two years after Fine Gael and Labour secured 55 per cent of the popular vote, fewer than two in five voters (38 per cent) now support the coalition parties.
The regaining by Fianna Fail of its lost status as the most popular party in the State, with 27 per cent support, and a Sinn Fein surge to 20 per cent, means Fine Gael and Labour, who are fighting on two political fronts, are poised to lose dozens of seats.
Fine Gael, on today's figures, would lose up to 25 seats, whilst a Labour Party whose support is now dangerously concentrated in Dublin would struggle to secure more than 20 seats.
And in a sinister reprise of the fate experienced by Fianna Fail and the Greens in 2011, high-profile ministers such as Phil Hogan, Dr James Reilly, Alan Shatter and Frances Fitzgerald are believed to be in serious political trouble due to a mix of declining party support and unique constituency factors.
Highly rated Labour junior ministers, such as Alan Kelly and Sean Sherlock, who are seen by many to represent the future of a party whose hierarchy is visibly ageing, are on the political ledge.
Although Labour has experienced a troubled time in government, the disappearance of Enda Kenny's Teflon status will come as a serious shock to a Fine Gael party that is at a dangerous tipping point.
Should Fine Gael support fall any lower towards the 23 per cent threshold, then in a reprise of the political melt-down suffered by Fianna Fail in 2011, Fine Gael would be on course to lose more than 40 seats.
Although Labour, with 13 per cent, has staged a slight recovery, the concentration of its support in the capital – where it has 20 per cent per cent – means that Labour is no longer, in terms of popular support at least, a national party.
By contrast, the even distribution of Sinn Fein's support across the country means that party is poised to secure major gains on a nationwide basis.
The similarity between SF's current 20 per cent in the polls and the 19 per cent secured by Labour in election 2011 means that SF will be targeting a return of 40 seats in the next election.
The poll results will come as a major disappointment to a Government that was expecting a major surge in its support in the wake of the promissory note deal.
Securing such a result was seen as being of critical importance to the future political health of the Coalition.
However, when taken with a pattern of declining support for the Government in recent polls, it is clear that the deal has had little or no impact on public view of the Coalition.
While Labour is all too clearly aware of the political dangers it is in, today's result will come as a shock to a Fine Gael party whose hierarchy has become increasingly distant from the electorate.
Last week at a FG parliamentary party meeting, John Deasy TD warned the party's new TDs that unless the Government addressed the real concerns of the voters "in two-and-a-half years' time a lot of people in this room will be begging for votes from farmers and business people that make up our core vote''.
Tensions are also beginning to escalate between the coalition partners over what should be done with the anticipated savings from the deal.
Fine Gael has been noticeably cautious but in a major political move a number of Labour ministers have warned that the country needs a stimulus sooner rather than later.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton warned: "The promissory note deal will not work if it is seen merely as a victory for politicians and bankers."
This was echoed by Pat Rabbitte, who warned: "In the absence of growth, Ireland can't afford to wait for growth. Ireland needs to pull together everything that it has, difficult as that will be, and put together a stimulus now.''
Labour minister Kathleen Lynch also warned: "The united view of Labour is that we may very well have no future if we do not act now. We cannot follow the Japanese example and leave the current scenario to linger for 20 years."