FIANNA Fáil has opened up a 12-point lead on Fine Gael in the first opinion poll published since the general election was called.
n a development that is likely to cause significant unease in Fine Gael, the party has fallen to 20pc in the Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) poll for the Sunday Times published at midnight on Saturday.
It's the lowest ever rating for Fine Gael in the B&A series and comes after a bruising fortnight which included controversy over the now-postponed plans to commemorate the Royal Irish Constabulary and the hospital trolley crisis.
The poll shows Fianna Fáil up 5 points to 32pc, with Fine Gael down 7 to 20pc.
Among the other parties, Sinn Féin is on 19pc (-1), the Green Party is on 7pc (+1), Labour is on 4pc (-2), Independent Alliance is on 3 (+1), Solidarity-PBP is on 2pc (-1), the Social Democrats are on 1pc (no change), Renua is on 1pc (+1), and Independents on 10pc (+1).
The gap between the two largest parties will inject fresh impetus into both their campaigns with Fianna Fáil likely to be buoyed by the development.
It may also spark a rethink by Fine Gael after a difficult start to the election campaign with questions over its approach to the homelessness crisis and crime.
However, the poll was conducted between January 2 and 14, which was the day the general election was called, meaning the opening days of the campaign are unaccounted for. The sample size was fewer than a 1,000 voters and the margin of error is 3.3pc.
In the 2016 general election a B&A poll for the Sunday Times published just under three weeks before polling day put Fine Gael on 28pc and Fianna Fáil on 20pc. The parties finished on 25pc and 24pc respectively in the actual general election.
The 2020 general election takes place on February 8.
Mr Varadkar will now be under huge pressure to turn things around with less than three weeks to the election on February 8.
The full results of the poll are as follows:
Fianna Fáil 32pc (+5pc)
Fine Gael 20pc (-7pc)
Sinn Féin 19pc (-1pc)
Greens 7pc (+1pc)
Labour 4pc (-2)
Independent Alliance 3pc (+1pc)
Solidarity-PBP 2pc (-1pc)
Social Democrats 1pc (=)
Renua 1pc (+1pc)
Independents and others 10pc (+1pc)