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Monday 11 December 2017

Fianna Fail jumps into second place ahead of Sinn Fein in new poll

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FIANNA Fail has dramatically risen to become the second-best-supported party in the country for the first time since the general election meltdown and at Sinn Fein's expense, a new poll shows.

Ahead of December's savage Budget, nearly three out of four voters are already dissatisfied with the performance of the Government.

Support for the coalition parties is holding relatively steady following a series of controversies surrounding Health Minister Dr James Reilly.

Fine Gael remains way out ahead of the pack on 31pc, only down by one point over the past five months, with Labour on 12pc, up two points over the same period.

However, a whopping 73pc are dissatisfied with the performance of the Government, with only 21pc satisfied.

The big movement in party support has been on the opposition benches where Fianna Fail has performed well since the return of the Dail.

Micheal Martin's party has capitalised at the expense of Sinn Fein, rising 4pc since the last similar poll in May.

Gerry Adams' party dropped four points in the same period to 20pc, in the poll by for the Irish Times carried out by Ipsos MRBI.

As a result, Fianna Fail overtook Sinn Fein to move into second place. Independents and other smaller parties are on 14pc, down 1pc, and the Green Party remains the same on 2pc.

The poll was taken on Monday and Tuesday of this week amid a normal representative sample of 1,000 voters.

All four major party leaders have suffered a drop in support.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is down three points to 33pc, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is also down three points to 23pc, likewise Mr Martin is down three points to 28pc.

Mr Adams has suffered the largest drop, falling by eight points to 29pc.

His continued poor Dail performance will be linked to his party's drop in support.

Despite the Government satisfaction rating,The coalition parties will still be reasonably satisfied with their performance, given the numerous controversies surrounding Dr Reilly and the ongoing kite-flying about Budget cuts.

Independent TDs will also be relieved to see the ongoing saga over tax cheat Mick Wallace has not caused greater damage.

Mr Martin's party was seen to be making the running on putting the Government under pressure over Dr Reilly.

The party's motion of no confidence in the Health Minister exposed the poisonous relationship with former junior health minister Roisin Shortall.

Within a week, Ms Shortall had resigned from office in an acrimonious spat with Dr Reilly and blamed Mr Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore for not standing by her over the selection of locations for primary health care centres.

Mr Martin also put in a strong performance in a televised debate with Mr Adams.

Although still far off its electoral performances of the past decade, when the party won three general elections under Bertie Ahern, the poll results will still provide some relief for Mr Martin. The Fianna Fail leader needs to show the party is recovering o some level from the disastrous result in the 2011 General Election, when it lost almost three-quarters of its seats. Mr Martin travelled to Brussels last night as he will attend a meeting of his counterparts in Fianna Fail's EU grouping today ahead of the EU summit.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore will also both be in Brussels today for the summit. While down on their general election performance, the Fine Gael and Labour leaders will still be pleased to see they did not haemorrhage support during a difficult period for the coalition. Independent TDs will also be relieved to see the ongoing saga over tax cheat Mick Wallace has not caused greater damage.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has played down the significance of an opinion poll showing a rise in support for the Labour Party.

"I think opinion polls more than three years from a general election aren't something that have a great deal of currency," he said.

Mr Gilmore said he was "not bothered" by the poll results.

"When you're in the middle of the match, you don't look up at the scoreboard," he said.

FF leader Micheal Martin says the real poll for Fianna Fail will be the 2014 local elections. Mr Martin welcomed the poll results showing Fianna Fail rising to second place for the first time since the 2011 general election meltdown.

But he said it would still take a long time to "regain trust with the people"

"It's a welcome poll but it's just one poll," he said. "For us the real poll will be the 2014 local elections," he added.

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