Election now says poll, as trust goes

82 per cent say Fianna Fail and Greens no longer trust each other


A huge majority of the public, 82 per cent, believe the trust has broken down between the two Government partners, Fianna Fail and the Greens, while a smaller majority feel a general election should now be called.

According to the latest Sunday Independent/Quantum Research poll, four out of every five people now feel the coalition is a dysfunctional and broken relationship, while 54 per cent want an early general election before this summer.

With Fianna Fail at war with itself and the coalition Government looking increasingly weakened and unstable, Minister for Enterprise Mary Coughlan is most favoured for the sack from the Cabinet -- 56 per cent would pick her first for demotion.

Ms Coughlan was followed next by Health Minister Mary Harney on 27 per cent.

Our poll of 500 households, conducted this weekend, shows the public believe the marriage of convenience between Brian Cowen's Fianna Fail and John Gormley's Green Party is terminally damaged.

Full poll details Page 28 a retail dustbowl and the people want an electioN Pages 14, 23, 24, 28 & 29

The public feel the resignation of Willie O'Dea quickly followed by that of Trevor Sargent put significant pressure on both parties, but particularly the Greens who face potential obliteration come election time.

On the issue of the holding of a general election, the poll shows that while the public is clearly not enthusiastic about the Opposition, the lack of progress on economic recovery and daily news of redundancies has convinced many that a change in government is now necessary.

Those who support change are deeply critical of the current administration who they say are drifting along without leadership and lacking the energy or the ideas to cope with the economic crisis the country is facing.

While the majority feel there should be an election soon, most people (80 per cent) concede it is unlikely there will be an election before the summer. In those circumstances 58 per cent would back a radical reshuffle of the Cabinet instead.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan is set to maintain his full portfolio when the Taoiseach reshuffles his Cabinet, despite his ongoing cancer treatment, the Sunday Independent has learned.

There has been growing speculation in recent days that in light of his ill health a super junior minister would be lined up who could step in if he was incapable of performing his duties.

However, given Mr Lenihan's determination to continue on with his full workload, Taoiseach Brian Cowen is set now to remove only the public service elements of the finance department, which will go elsewhere.

When asked which of the ministers they would drop first, behind Coughlan and Harney people said ministers Micheal Martin (6 per cent), Noel Dempsey (5 per cent), Martin Cullen (4 per cent) and Eamon O Cuiv (2 per cent).

One male city respondent commented: "Only one vote, but so many ministers," while another said "it's like a contest of dumb, dumber and dumbest".

Despite the Government's instability dominating the agenda in recent days, the focus is set to turn again to the crisis in the economy and the public finances, with the publication of the latest exchequer returns and Live Register figures later this week.

Public sector unions are again set to step up their work-to-rule action in protest at the Budget pay reductions, which is set to cause further disruption to the public.

Mr Lenihan on Friday night called on the unions to end their action and said the Government is open to negotiation but stated no pay rises or reversal of pay cuts can be entertained.

"Public sector workers have been particularly affected by the cuts in December's Budget. They had a certain expectation of earnings and very quickly and sharply an adjustment took place.

"The unions are engaged in an industrial action on behalf of their members, that is their right. We would prefer if they did not, we would prefer if engagement resumed and an end was brought to this activity," he said.

He continued: "We are not in a position to pay increases. That is our stark economic position but we do need to bring industrial peace to our public services and I have made it clear that I and the Government are open to discussions."

A further €3bn package of spending cuts and tax increases will have to be delivered next year as part of the Government's plan for economic recovery, he said.

Mr Lenihan said that the Government would stick to its commitment to deliver a further €3bn adjustment for 2011. With a €1bn cut in capital spending already provided for, the other €2bn would have to be found through cutting the cost of public services and reforming the tax system. Mr Lenihan said public service payroll costs would have to be contained and certain current expenditure programmes scaled back or eliminated.