Sunday 16 December 2018

Mairia Cahill scandal makes serious dent in Sinn Fein support

• Mairia Cahill scandal rocks SF
• Two-thirds don't believe Adams
• Half say Mary Lou is damaged
• Independents to dominate Dail
• Poll: Voter concern at Sinn Fein lack of accountability on rape

Jody Corcoran and John Drennan

The effect of the Mairia Cahill rape scandal has made a serious dent in support for Sinn Fein, according to the latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll.

Two months after the revelations, the poll shows that voters have developed deep concerns about the party's truthfulness and refusal to accept its accountability to the Irish public.

Yesterday, the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett, accused Sinn Fein of using him as a "pawn to deflect attention" from issues such as the Mairia Cahill affair.

In response, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams accused Mr Barrett of "highly prejudicial" comments.

However, today's opinion poll shows that more than half (52pc) of voters believe the reputation of Sinn Fein has been damaged by the scandal with less than one in four (23pc) having the view that the party has escaped unscathed.

A majority (54pc) also believe the reputation of Gerry Adams has been damaged and almost half (46pc) say Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has been damaged.

The nationwide poll also shows a clear majority (61pc or three in five voters) do not believe Gerry Adams' claims that he does not know the identities of Provisional IRA sex offenders moved from the North to the Republic of Ireland.

And in a finding that will bring alarm to the Sinn Fein hierarchy, just less than half (49pc) of the party's own supporters believe Mr Adams on this issue.

The devastating findings come at a time when Sinn Fein has attempted to lead the charge on the water charges issue. The poll also finds that less that two in five (37pc) intend to pay the revised charge.

Voter doubt about Sinn Fein after the Mairia Cahill controversy is now also reflected in the party's rating which has fallen significantly to the benefit of Independents/Others in the period the poll was taken - from December 8 to last Thursday.

First-preference support for the parties, excluding 'don't knows', is: Fine Gael (22pc) unchanged; Sinn Fein (21pc) down five points; Fianna Fail (18pc) down two points; Labour (5pc) down two points; Greens (2pc) up one point and Independents/Others (32pc) up nine points.

The dramatic swing in support towards Independents/Others indicates that the country's economic crisis has been replaced by a political crisis.

If today's poll findings were replicated in a General Election none of the conventional coalition government options would be available.

Fine Gael would lose 40 seats and Fianna Fail would struggle to win more than 26, a combined total of 19 short of a majority.

The fall in support for Sinn Fein also means a coalition between either Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein or Fine Gael and Sinn Fein would also fall well short of a majority.

The surge in support to Independents/Others means such candidates could take up to 57 seats and can be expected to play a key role in the formation of a new government.

Notwithstanding the clear damage to the, until now, unassailable standing of Sinn Fein, the party is on course to win 34 seats.

The divide between urban and rural Ireland also means the Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice could be poised to become king-maker. His new party, provisionally called Tua

Nua, could win up to 12 seats in rural constituencies. The Labour Party, meanwhile, is facing near total wipe-out.

The poll has also found satisfaction with all of the main party leaders has fallen: Enda Kenny (21pc) down four points; Joan Burton (22pc) down six; Micheal Martin (24pc) down five and Gerry Adams (23pc) down four. Among Sinn Fein supporters, one in five (20pc) are dissatisfied with Mr Adams' leadership.

There has also been a sharp fall in confidence (41pc) that the Government will run full term until 2016 - down 10 points since October; a majority (55pc) expect the current Government will not win a second term.

In fact, satisfaction with the Government (19pc) is down two points to its lowest level this year.

Support for the formation of a new party (40pc) has also fallen seven points since October with another finding that there is no stand-out to lead such a party: Shane Ross (13pc) is still the favourite closely followed by Lucinda Creighton (11pc).

The poll was under way before Mr Fitzmaurice announced his intentions.

Sunday Independent

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