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Fine Gael: Unpopular Kenny predicts FG win

FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday confidently predicted that his party would win a general election for the first time in 29 years.

His optimism is borne out by the latest Irish Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll -- but the results will also make sobering reading for Mr Kenny personally.

Fine Gael remains in poll position at 30pc. But its support has dropped by four points in the space of just a few days.

Mr Kenny's personal popularity remains a problem for the party. Just 27pc are satisfied with his performance -- significantly lower than Labour' Eamon Gilmore (46pc) and the new Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (44pc).

Fine Gael is still on course to form the next government with Labour, whose support is steady at 24pc. If this was repeated at the polls, a Fine Gael/Labour coalition could expect to capture up to 100 seats.

Mr Kenny said he would travel the length and breadth of the country over the next three weeks to seek a mandate for a strong government that would not depend "on the whim of some mercenary independents".

At the launch of his party's general election campaign in Fitzwilliam Hall in Dublin, Mr Kenny pledged that there would be no further tax increases if Fine Gael got into power.

And he said 30,000 voluntary redundancies among back-office staff in the public service could be delivered to help cut state spending by €5bn.

"It's eminently credible. It's 18,000 (redundancies) on top of the 12,000 contained in the Government's programme," he said.

The party's enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton explained afterwards that the EU would allow the State to borrow the money to fund the voluntary-redundancy scheme without it officially counting towards the national debt.

But there are still doubts about the take-up of such a scheme because the HSE recently only managed to get 2,500 voluntary redundancies out of a planned 5,000 from administration and management.

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