Sunday 27 May 2018

Autumn election off the table after Fine Gael's poll crash - minister

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: election hopes dealt blow
Taoiseach Enda Kenny: election hopes dealt blow
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Fine Gael's opinion poll slump means an autumn election is off the table, according to Government sources.

Senior Coalition figures believe speculation over Taoiseach Enda Kenny calling a snap election in October must end, after the party fell five points to 24pc in the latest opinion poll.

A Cabinet minister yesterday insisted there will be no election this year as the party needs to regroup and increase public support before going to the polls.

"The poll means the election will definitely be next year," the source said.

Last weekend's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll came as a damaging blow to Mr Kenny's election hopes and the Coalition now faces an uphill battle convincing the electorate to give it a second term in office.

Labour is still stagnant in the polls and is unlikely to make significant gains in the coming months.

Fine Gael election strategists are aiming for at least 40pc of the vote between the two Coalition parties, and believe this is achievable in the months ahead.

However, with the party languishing at 24pc, there is a growing realisation that more work needs to be done to increasing public support before Mr Kenny calls an election.

Senior Fine Gael figures accept Irish Water will be huge hurdle - but there is a hope that closer to the election, the public will be swayed by the Government's management of the economy. "We are at 25 or whatever and it doesn't take very much to push us up over the 30 mark. Irish Water is very difficult, but leave that aside and the numbers will go up," a Cabinet minister told the Irish Independent.

"People will speculate that we won't get it with two parties but that's what we are pushing for. There will be events between now and then, but that's the goal.

"After the election, it will be about what numbers do Labour get and what numbers do we get, and do we need another three, five, six or 10 TDs.

"You can't speculate this side of an election," the minister added.

However, the Irish Independent has learned RTÉ has finalised its election coverage plans over fears Mr Kenny will call an early election.

"Plans are being put in place so the broadcaster is ready whenever the election is called," a source said.

Yesterday, the Irish Independent revealed there was growing support within sections of Fine Gael for forming a coalition with Fianna Fáil after the general election.

Waterford TD John Deasy and Cork East TD Tom Barry both spoke out in favour of the move.

Both argued that such a coalition would offer the most economic stability, based on the current poll figures.

However, Fianna Fáil party stalwart and former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea accused the Fine Gael TDs of taking a "short term view".

"I would take the exact opposite view - I don't think it would give economic stability at all," Mr O'Dea said.

"I think it would give Sinn Féin and the left the scope to grow while in opposition," Mr O'Dea added.

"Internationally, people don't just look at the present Government but also what's coming down the line."

However, a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition is the most likely Government after the next election, according to bookmakers Paddy Power.

The betting firm is giving odds of 5/4 on a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition, while a second term for the current coalition is at 7/2.

Renua TD for Wicklow Billy Timmins said the opinion poll results show a coalition of either Sinn Féin and Fine Gael or Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil is now likely.

Irish Independent

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