Wednesday 21 March 2018

Double whammy for Fine Gael and Labour on Martin's turf

McGrath on course to beat Fianna Fáil leader for top spot

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Michael McGrath is set to top the poll for the Cork South-Central Constituency Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael and the Labour Party are set for a double whammy and will both lose a seat in Micheál Martin's home constituency, according to a new poll.

The popularity of the coalition parties has plummeted in Cork South-Central and two sitting TDs appear out of the running with just four days left until polling.

Ciarán Lynch, the Labour Party TD who chaired the Banking Inquiry, is in seventh place in the newly redrawn four-seat constituency.

And in a massive blow for Fine Gael, Jerry Buttimer, who has headed the Oireachtas Health Committee and took a central role in the marriage-equality referendum campaign, is also a long way off being competitive.

The Millward Brown study for the Irish Independent shows that Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath will top the poll on 19pc.

This is a reverse of 2011 when Mr Martin won the most first preferences and brought Mr McGrath in on transfers.

Sinn Féin's candidate Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire is in second place on 18pc and looks certain to take a seat.

The remaining two seats will be taken by Mr Martin and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who are on 17pc.

However, the huge gap beyond that to Mr Buttimer on just 9pc will be a massive worry for Fine Gael.

Party headquarters had hoped that a potential surplus for Mr Coveney and the elimination of Mr Lynch could help him secure the final seat.

But the strong showing of Mr Ó Laoghaire, who is just 26, will have severely dented that ambition.

It will also reflect badly on Mr Coveney, who is considered a frontrunner to succeed Enda Kenny as leader of the party.

Fine Gael had hoped he would achieve a surplus.

The poll involved face-to-face interviews with 497 adults at 46 sampling points in Cork South Central from February 15-18. There is a margin of error of 4.4pc.

In 2011, Fine Gael and Labour collected 39pc of first-preference votes, compared with 27pc for Fianna Fáil. But Mr Martin's party is now on course to win 36pc, leaving it a full 10pc ahead of Fine Gael.

The swing away back towards Fianna Fáil can be partly explained by the level of dissatisfaction with the Government.


Some 70pc of voters said they were unhappy with the work being done by the outgoing Coalition. Satisfaction with Enda Kenny is well below the national average at just 22pc, while Labour Party leader Joan Burton fares even worse on 19pc.

At the same time, almost half of voters say they are satisfied with the performance of Micheál Martin as leader of Fianna Fáil.

But Mr McGrath is by far the most popular TD when constituents were asked who they consider to have been most effective over the past five years.

A particularly interesting finding is that people in Cork South-Central are willing to pass their votes between the traditional Civil War parties.

Some 29pc of Fine Gael supporters said they would transfer to Fianna Fáil, while one in four Fianna Fáil voters would divert their second preference to Fine Gael. At 48pc, Sinn Féin is considered the most toxic party for transfers - but the Labour Party is only slightly behind on 46pc. Overall, Fianna Fáil is the most transfer-friendly, ensuring that both sitting TDs should be safe.

Like the other constituencies featured in the Irish Independent series of polls, the health service rated as the most important issue by voters.

Some 34pc said the state of our hospitals would be to the forefront of their minds on election day. At 16pc, management of the economy was cited as the second most important topic, while the housing crisis came third on 12pc.

Despite the number of high-profile candidates in the constituency, just 1pc said ensuring they had a local minister would affect their voting decision.

Irish Independent

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