Sunday 22 April 2018

Surge for Martin in new poll shock

EXCLUSIVE: Kenny's head may be price of 'partnership' deal

Michael Martin. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Michael Martin. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

The people overwhelmingly want Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin elected Taoiseach ahead of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, a significant Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll has found.

More than twice as many voters prefer Mr Martin (39pc) over Mr Kenny (17pc) to lead, according to the potentially influential poll.

The findings show that the public mood has decisively turned against Mr Kenny as he continues to struggle to put together a Fine Gael-led minority government.

In a most damaging finding, a little over half (54pc) of Fine Gael voters actually want Mr Kenny to be elected Taoiseach.

In fact, far more Fine Gael supporters would prefer health minister Leo Varadkar as party leader.

Last night the Sunday Independent learned Fianna Fail might consider a "partnership" government with Fine Gael if Mr Kenny stood down as leader and Fianna Fail Independent TDs were included in the arrangement.

The poll finds that more voters want a Fianna Fail-led minority government (14pc) than one led by Fine Gael (8pc). And the nationwide poll also indicates that Fine Gael could lose significant support in the event of a new election, particularly among well-off voters in Dublin.

The nationwide poll contains several results that will alarm Fine Gael and will also inform Independent TDs - whose support is crucial to the formation of the next government - on who the public are leaning towards.

This weekend, Mr Kenny still remains favourite to lead a Fine Gael-led minority government because Fine Gael has seven more TDs than Fianna Fail.

But the decision of 17 Independent TDs will determine whether Mr Kenny or Mr Martin leads the next government.

Fianna Fail leader Mr Martin is attempting to maximise support among Independent TDs and smaller parties.

Yesterday he told the Sunday Independent: "We're up for it." He directly appealed to Independents and others to support a "shared" government with Fianna Fail.

Mr Martin said: "This opinion poll shows that the people's mood for a change of government is still there - if anything it has hardened since the election."

Fine Gael is this weekend also in behind-the-scenes talks with Independents, and believes it has secured the support of at least four, which would see Mr Kenny win the race for power.

However, today's opinion poll will give all Independents food for thought and may influence their decision.

The opinion poll was taken among a sample of 865 voters between March 21 and April 1. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3pc.

Asked for a preference to resolve the uncertainty over the formation of the next government, a quarter (27pc) favoured a new election.

However, a clear majority wanted a government now rather than another election.

According to the poll, 22pc favoured a Fine Gael/Fianna Fail coalition, rising to 43pc of FG voters and a significantly less 27pc of FF voters.

This finding indicates that Mr Martin has correctly judged that the mood in Fianna Fail is strongly opposed to a so-called 'grand coalition'.

A further 22pc of those polled favoured the formation of some form of minority government, while 11pc want some other combination and 18pc did not know or expressed no opinion.

However, more people favoured a Fianna Fail-led minority government (14pc), rising to 37pc of Fianna Fail supporters ahead, of a Fine Gael-led one (8pc), rising to 19pc of Fine Gael supporters.

The poll also found that 70pc of people would vote the same way if a new election was called, rising to 82pc of Fianna Fail supporters, 83pc of Sinn Fein voters but just 75pc of Fine Gael supporters.

It also found 10pc would change the way they voted, highest among well-off AB voters (17pc) and Dublin residents (16pc), while 5pc said it depended and 6pc did not know or expressed no opinion.

When preferences for the next Taoiseach were broken down by parties, a massive 84pc of Fianna Fail supporters said Micheal Martin, but just 54pc of Fine Gael supporters said Enda Kenny.

The poll also found health minister Leo Varadkar (28pc) is the preferred Fine Gael leader followed by Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney (15pc), Enda Kenny (12pc), Frances Fitzgerald (6pc) and Paschal Donohoe (3pc). A breakdown of Fine Gael supporters finds Mr Varadkar (38pc) with a commanding lead over Mr Kenny (27pc), Mr Coveney (16pc), Ms Fitzgerald (6pc), and Mr Donohoe (1pc).

On the Labour leadership, the poll finds Brendan Howlin (16pc) ahead of Joan Burton (14pc), Alan Kelly (12pc), Sean Sherlock (6pc) and Ged Nash (4pc), but almost half of voters (48pc) said none of these, somebody else, had no opinion or said it depended. However, a breakdown of Labour supporters showed Ms Burton (38pc) the favourite ahead of Mr Howlin (23pc), Mr Kelly (13pc), Mr Nash (3pc) and Mr Sherlock (2pc).

Yesterday Mr Martin told the Sunday Independent: "For the last month I've been reaching out to Independents and smaller parties, like the Social Democrats and the Greens, on the basis that people voted for change. We are genuinely trying to reflect that change in the composition of a new government. As one Independent said to me during the week, people voted for a centre-left government, not a centre-right government.

"We believe a shared government of Fianna Fail, Independents and smaller parties is the obvious way to reflect the people's opinion. I've picked up from my dealings with Independents that they are wary of voting for Enda Kenny and of Fine Gael going back into government because they intuitively know that is not what the people voted for."

He said that while he was aware the formation of the next government was the duty of all TDs, and he would respect their decision, he said he was "taken aback" by the "very arrogant attitude" of Fine Gael that Independents must vote Fine Gael or there would be an election: "Some Fine Gael spokespeople simply haven't got the reality of the election result - they need to get that fairly quickly," he said. Fine Gael was in "no position to be dictating to anybody - they need to get that." Mr Martin spoke of parliamentary reform proposals which, he said, would "make the Dail a different place" and would "facilitate" a minority led government. He also said he was aware of the "limited financial resources" available, but said a "shared" government could "agree to the fundamentals" which he highlighted as "caring for disability and special needs people", investment in rural Ireland, and dealing with housing, homelessness and health issues. "We are up for it," he said.

Sunday Independent

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