Wednesday 21 March 2018

Poll is 'a bad one' for Government and carries warning for Independents – Leo Varadkar

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar Picture: Tony Gavin
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar Picture: Tony Gavin
John Downing

John Downing

Leo Varadkar has conceded has conceded that today’s opinion poll – showing a surge in Fianna Fáil support - is “bad” for the Government.

Mr Varadkar also warned the Independents – whose support dived 8pc - that publicly bickering with Fine Gael in Government will continue to erode their support.

But the Social Protection Minister – among those tipped to succeed Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach – insisted that he has full confidence in Mr Kenny who must be allowed time to consider when he wants to stand down, as he has pledged, before the next general election.

Mr Varadkar was speaking on Kildare local radio, KFM, where he said that four controversies which hit Government this week alone cannot all be laid at the Taoiseach’s door.

When the poll result of this Ipsos MRBI survey for The Irish Times is compared with last February's general election, it puts Fine Gael at 24pc (down 2pc), Fianna Fáil 33pc (up 9pc), Labour 5pc (down 2pc), Sinn Féin 16pc (up 2pc) and Independents and Others 22pc (down 8pc).

In the past four days the Taoiseach has been publicly rebuffed by Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster on his idea for an “All Ireland Forum” to handle the Brexit fallout. He has also had to cave in Independent Ministers in the Coalition and allow them a free vote on abortion legislation.

Micheal Martin
Micheal Martin

The Government has also been hit by the forced resignation of former Senator Joe O’Toole from the water commission. There has also been controversy about the appointment of the Taoiseach’s advisor, Andrew McDowell, to a prestige EU post in the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank (EIB).

Mr Varadkar said the EIB appointment came after an independent selection process and he had no knowledge of Independent Transport Minister Shane Ross blocking the appointment of former Fine Gael Taoiseach, John Bruton. But he conceded that the latest poll findings were “bad” and sent a message to Government.

“The poll today is a bad one. It puts Fianna Fáil nine points ahead of Fine Gael. It does send a bit of a message to Government and tell us that we need to get down to business and start doing the people’s business,” Mr Varadkar told KFM presenter Shane Beatty.

But the Social Protection Minister also carried a warning for Independents whose support has fallen 8pc. He said Labour in Coalition had also suffered when they publicly quarreled with their government partners.

Mr Varadkar said this week's public spat where Independent Ministers insisted on “a free vote” about fatal foetal abnormalities on a bill by Independent TD, Mick Wallace, had undermined public confidence.

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