Saturday 14 December 2019

Coalition concern at 'Shatter effect' as elections loom

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton.

Daniel McConnell, John Downing and Kathryn Hayes

GOVERNMENT politicians are gravely concerned at the significant slump in support for the Coalition in the latest opinion poll – just weeks before the European and local elections.

While Taoiseach Enda Kenny attempted to shrug off the poor result for his party, many others have spoken of serious worries about the "Shatter effect".

Support for Fine Gael fell five points to 25pc, putting it level with Fianna Fail following the controversy surrounding Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Meanwhile, Labour deputy leader Joan Burton admitted "we have a lot of work to do" as her party fell one point to 8pc. She added that the poll was "clearly influenced" by the recent controversies surrounding Mr Shatter.

Several Fine Gael politicians spoke openly about the party's need to quickly readjust as the local and European elections loom on May 23.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness said the survey result was "a wake-up call" and was directly related to the Government's failure to deal with the garda controversies.

"We have managed the bigger economic things much better and we have not done well with these garda issues," she told the Irish Independent. "It has damaged public confidence in us and we must work now to regain that ahead of the local and European Parliament vote."

However, several Fine Gael backbenchers have expressed strong concerns that the impact of the "Shatter effect" could damage the party's chances at the local elections.

Some expressed frustration at the amount of political capital the Government has had to invest in defending Mr Shatter.

Junior Minister Brian Hayes, who is a candidate for Fine Gael in the Dublin constituency in the European elections, said the slump in support "was no great surprise, given the recent crisis". He added: "It is not good but there is no long-term damage to the party."

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy commented: "It may look like an extreme drop but it is only one poll. It has been a difficult time and we must get the focus of Government back on where it should be – on jobs and the economy."


Labour ministers moved to blame the controversy in Alan Shatter's Justice portfolio for having a knock-on effect on the entire Coalition but also acknowledged that they had to sharpen their own message to voters.

Speaking in Limerick, Ms Burton said: "The poll is obviously disappointing, and concerning from the point of view of the Labour Party it means we have a lot of work to do."

She expressed confidence in Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who is on 20pc support, according to the latest opinion poll.

Labour TD and Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan said: "It is a disappointing poll for both government parties. We have to learn from it in terms of how we get our own message out.

"I think the public are genuinely fed up with the last few weeks of publicity around the justice system and that is reflected in the polls."

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was bullish as he announced another 100 jobs for Dublin. The internet hospitality company Airbnb is doubling its workforce in the capital to 200.

Mr Kenny said that in politics, as in life, "you take the highs with the lows", adding: "At the end of five years the people will judge us in any event. This Government will fulfil that mandate."

Airbnb, which has listings in more than 34,000 cities, lets users rent out a couch, bedroom or house worldwide and charges a fee for each transaction. Positions for which it is recruiting are in its customer experience and hospitality teams, based in Ringsend.

Also speaking at the event, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton insisted that the Government had not been damaged by the recent justice controversies.

He added: "We push on. No, the Government isn't damaged. We are focused on what we were put in to do."

Irish Independent

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