FF shaky in key district, says FG poll

Ralph Riegel

AN internal Fine Gael poll has shown that Fianna Fail is poised for record losses in a key marginal constituency.

The poll -- conducted by FG across 500 voters in Cork South Central (CSC) -- showed that FF faces the threat of dropping from holding three seats in the constituency in both 1997 and 2002 to retaining just one Dail berth.

FF's support is now gauged at just 22pc, with FG rated at 40pc and Labour at 26pc.

The five-seat constituency was typical of the bedrock support FF enjoyed over the past three general elections, particularly in urban Dublin and Cork constituencies.

The party held three seats in CSC in both 1997 and 2002 but dropped to two in the 2007 General Election -- Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and backbench TD Michael McGrath.

FG took two seats -- Simon Coveney and Deirdre Clune -- while Labour won back a seat with Ciaran Lynch.

Now, the FG poll indicates that the Labour Party has a chance of making history by taking a second seat in the key Cork constituency, with FF facing the threat of holding just one.

The poll shows Mr Coveney set to top the ballot (15pc) followed by Deputy Lynch (14.5pc).

Mr Martin looks set to take the third seat, with his colleague Mr McGrath (8pc) facing a desperate battle to hold his.

He is running almost 4pc behind Labour's Cork County Council member, Cllr Paula Desmond, who was last week added to the party's two-person CSC ticket.

Another problem for FF is that FG is also expected to run a powerful third candidate, Senator Jerry Buttimer (8pc), who narrowly missed out on taking a Dail seat in 2007.

Sinn Fein and the Green Party are both ranked at 5pc in the poll.