THE Government is facing a politically embarrassing defeat on the centre-point of Enda Kenny's political reform package – the abolition of the Seanad – a new Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll reveals.
Despite a series of high-profile embarrassing controversies involving supporters of the Seanad and a contentious abortion debate, just 37 per cent of voters now support the abolition of the House.
This represents a drop of six per cent from the June Millward Brown poll figure of 43 per cent, and a steep decline from December 2012 when 53 per cent of the electorate – including "don't knows" – were supportive of the Taoiseach's proposal.
According to the latest poll, 40 per cent do not want the Seanad to be abolished.
Some 33 per cent of those polled want the Seanad to be reformed, while seven per cent of voters want the Upper House to remain as it is.
Though the anti-abolitionist lead of three per cent is narrow, the political omens are looking ominous for the Government.
Constitutional referenda are rarely passed without a consensus of mainstream parties being secured, and Fianna Fail remains resolute in its opposition.
Such a defeat would be the second experienced on a major constitutional reform issue in the wake of the unexpected defeat of the Government's Dail Inquiries referendum.
There has been a significant collapse of 20 per cent support for the abolition of the Seanad from the original Millward Brown poll of February 2011, when 57 per cent were in favour of it being disbanded.
Senator Feargal Quinn told the Sunday Independent that losing the referendum could turn into "a major coup for Enda Kenny'' because he could then do "what all previous Taoisigh, even Eamon de Valera, couldn't and reform the Seanad''.
However, it is highly unlikely the Taoiseach would be consoled by such a prospect.
Mr Kenny is instead likely to be far more concerned about the promise by his political enemies in Fine Gael that "whether the hierarchy like it or not, we are going to fight a guerrilla war against this campaign".