Friday 20 September 2019

Gilmore on the rack as Labour sinks to 6%

Poll reveals majority want Kenny to dump Shatter over Garda scandals

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore

Daniel McConnell, Political Correspondent

Eamon Gilmore's leadership of the Labour Party is on the line as support for the junior coalition party has slumped to an all-time low of just 6 per cent, a new Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll reveals.

Despite the improving economy, support for Mr Gilmore and Labour has halved since the beginning of the year and the party now finds itself in a full-blown crisis less than five weeks before the mid-term European and local elections.

In stark contrast to its coalition partner, Fine Gael enjoyed a two-point increase to 29 per cent – in spite of the seemingly endless series of garda controversies involving Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

A strong majority of those polled – 54 per cent – believe Mr Shatter should either resign as minister or be fired over his handling of the secret garda taping affair.

A bigger majority – 56 per cent – feels that he should also resign because of his treatment of the garda whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson.

Despite this, his party appears immune to any public backlash.

The poll suggests that Fine Gael is being rewarded for the country's improving economy, with the party particularly strong in the capital (30 per cent), which has seen a strong surge in house prices in recent months.

However, the survey will come as a hammer blow to Labour as the party braces itself for a major backlash at the ballot box next month.

The poll was conducted over a 10-day period up until last Tuesday, the day before the high-profile cabinet spat between Mr Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny over the leaking to the media of details of water charges.

Senior government sources this weekend said Mr Gilmore's personal relationship with the Taoiseach was badly damaged by the latest bust-up between the coalition partners.

However, it is clear from the poll that Mr Kenny is enjoying far more support than Mr Gilmore, whose personal popularity has dropped to 16 per cent.

Conversely, Mr Kenny is the most popular party leader, with 27 per cent of those polled saying he is doing a good job.

Even before the publication of the poll findings, Mr Gilmore was being criticised by some within the party over his "poor leadership" on the water charges row.

One senior Labour figure told the Sunday Independent: "He had a bad week and now looks even weaker. He is on the rack and the elections in May will determine his fate.

"People are now openly questioning his leadership.

"We are sleepwalking into disaster here. A lot of guys are now beginning to realise that at this rate they won't be coming back next time."

The dramatic slump has reversed Labour's mini-revival following the country's successful exit from the Troika bailout in December. Just four months ago, support for the Labour Party was at 12 per cent and on an upward trend.

Today's poll shows support for the party in some areas where it was previously strong has fallen to just 4 per cent, with support ebbing away to Sinn Fein and independents.

Despite Labour's woes, overall satisfaction with the Government is at its highest level since our series of tracking polls began in February 2013, jumping four points to 24 per cent.

Two-thirds of those polled (66 per cent) say they are dissatisfied with how the Government is running the country, down from 71 per cent in our last poll in February.

The poll findings will also be of concern for Fianna Fail, which now lies seven points behind Fine Gael on 22 per cent. While the party has increased its support marginally by one per cent, its failure to capitalise on the garda controversies is becoming the subject of much internal angst and today's finding will further the pressure on party leader Micheal Martin.

Of real concern for Mr Martin is the finding that his party has the support of just 9 per cent of voters in the capital.

Sources within the party are now saying his leadership hangs on whether its MEP candidate in Dublin, Mary Fitzpatrick, gets elected, though this is unlikely on the basis of today's poll.

Despite dropping two points, the poll shows Sinn Fein polling strongly at 20 per cent, double the vote they received in the last election.

Support for Independents is slightly up, at 21 per cent.

The poll also reveals there is still a huge section of the electorate who do not support any mainstream party or independent candidates. The level of 'don't knows' is very high at 34 per cent, reflecting widespread disenchantment with the overall political system.

Elsewhere in the poll, voters also expressed a strong desire for An Garda Siochana to be overseen by an independent authority. A majority, 69 per cent, said they favoured independent oversight of the State's police force, while just 10 per cent opposed the proposal that has been adopted by Government.

A similar majority (68 per cent) believe the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) should have complete access to the Garda Pulse system when investigating complaints. Just 12 per cent opposed the proposal.

Sunday Independent

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