Return of the old guard sparks Fianna Fail backlash
THE return of the Fianna Fail 'old guard' has prompted a voter backlash against Micheal Martin, an Irish Independent/ Millward Brown opinion poll shows.
Following Mary Hanafin's return to the Fianna Fail ticket, more than one in three voters say they are less likely to vote for the party if former ministers are brought back.
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has also made his first public contribution to the Fianna Fail campaign by canvassing with party MEP Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher at the weekend.
The negative sentiment towards Fianna Fail's former ministers is particularly strong in Dublin where the party is struggling to recover.
The party is down 2pc to 21pc in the latest poll, with Sinn Fein taking lead position, up 2pc to 23pc.
Ahead of the local and European elections, Fine Gael's support is also down dramatically to near the levels of their 2002 General Election meltdown.
The poll shows Fine Gael at 20pc after dropping five points over the past three weeks.
Independents and Sinn Fein now have the biggest support base, comprising of half of voters.
Fianna Fail has remarkably failed to benefit from the drop in Fine Gael support following the resignation of Justice Minister Alan Shatter and the announcement of water charges.
The negative poll finding on the return of the former ministers can be blamed for Fianna Fail's poor performance, Mr Martin's satisfaction rating plunging and the party now struggling to win more than one European seat.
Although Fianna Fail headquarters initially invited Ms Hanafin to run as a candidate, the party then tried to drop her from the ticket, resulting in a high-profile spat.
However, the shambolic handling of the affair has clearly backfired on Mr Martin.
The poll finds the return of former Fianna Fail ministers, such as Ms Hanafin, would make 36pc of voters less likely to vote for the party – with just 11pc saying they would be more likely.
As the party suffers from the association with the old regime, Mr Cowen joined Mr Gallagher as he canvassed in Tullamore and Birr in Co Offaly.
"I was very pleased to have Brian Cowen's support on the canvass in his native Offaly where we were both very warmly received," Mr Gallagher told the Irish Independent last night.
The sitting MEP was also joined by Mr Cowen's TD brother Barry and former senator Geraldine Feeney, who is a close friend of the Cowens.
She is the mother of Kate Feeney, Ms Hanafin's running mate in the local elections in the Blackrock area of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.
The poll shows the rise in support for Independents continues with a further rise of four points to 27pc.
Just days out from the local and European elections, Independents are the biggest political bloc, followed by Sinn Fein on 23pc – up two points.
Fianna Fail are down two points to 21pc, just ahead of Fine Gael on 20pc, following a five-point decline.
The Labour Party has flatlined at 6pc over the course of the campaign, with the Green Party fixed on 2pc.
Meanwhile, the problems for Labour have also been highlighted in two other polls carried in other newspapers this morning.
In a Red C poll for the Irish Sun, the party's support has fallen by 3pc in the past two weeks compared to the previous Red C poll, and stands at 8pc. This is one of the lowest scores ever recorded for Labour in Red C tracking polls and represents a drop of 11pc from the vote achieved by the party in the last General Election.
Nor is it good news for Eamon Gilmore in an Ipsos MRBI poll in the Irish Times. It found that Labour could lose all of its three European Parliament seats, while it found that Fianna Fail is in with a chance of retaining its three seats.