Two surveys show increase in support for Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil has been given some good news from two separate opinion polls, which have shown small increases in support.
Overall, both polls raise doubt about a clear-cut election result and again raise the prospect of a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - an option which has consistently been ruled out by both parties' leaderships.
A Red C survey put Fine Gael on 30pc, down two points, while Labour remained unchanged on 9pc. Fianna Fáil was up two points to 19pc, the same score as Sinn Féin.
The Red C poll in the 'Sunday Business Post' puts Independents on 15pc - up one point. It reverses a recovery trend for Fine Gael which has gone on since last summer and again raises doubt about hopes for a Labour recovery.
The second opinion poll, by the firm Behaviour & Attitudes for the 'Sunday Times', puts Fine Gael on 31pc and unchanged from the last survey before Christmas.
Labour is stuck on 6pc, down two points.
Fianna Fáil is on 20pc, up one point, while Sinn Féin is on 16pc, down one point.
Combined 'Independents and Others' are on 26pc, up two points.
At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, English political strategist Professor Tim Bale told delegates the party's recovery could take up to three elections.
He said a "good result" in 2016 would mean cutting the 19pc margin between it and Fine Gael in 2011 to single figures and keeping ahead of Sinn Féin.
Prof Bale said the party was wise to rule out coalition with Fine Gael and Sinn Féin and advised concentration on policy issues in the campaign. The professor has studied the British Conservatives' rebuilding after Thatcher.