News Irish News

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Public rage at water charges speeding Sinn Fein rise: Poll

76pc say water charges unfair; SF support up in Dublin and nationwide – despite Adams arrest

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2014 - Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams pictured at a press conference in the Balmoral Hotel in west belfast this evening after being released from custody. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2014 - Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams pictured at a press conference in the Balmoral Hotel in west belfast this evening after being released from custody. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.


AN overwhelming number of voters do not believe the Coalition's controversial new water charges will be just or fair, the first national survey on the subject that is dominating the election campaign reveals.

The latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll shows the backlash against water charges and the establishment parties is driving support to Sinn Fein and Independent candidates who oppose the levies.

Revealing how water charges have become the 'tipping point' for homeowners, the poll shows just over three out of four (76 per cent) people believe the charges will not be "fair and equitable", as promised by Enda Kenny.

Sinn Fein candidates in the European elections have ridden the wave of public outrage against the water charges to experience a rise in support, according to the opinion polls.

Despite the arrest of party leader Gerry Adams in connection with the brutal murder of 'disappeared' mother-of-10 Jean McConville, Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan is still topping the poll in the Dublin constituency, where her support has risen by three points to 23 per cent.

Fine Gael's Brian Hayes is chasing her for the title of poll-topper after his support rose significantly – by seven points to 22 per cent – since last month's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll.

Independent MEP Nessa Childers – who won a seat for Labour in the last European election but quit the party after falling out with the leadership – is marginally ahead in the battle for the third seat despite her support, dropping six points to 13 per cent.

She is followed by Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick (11 per cent) and Labour's Emer Costello (10 per cent).

The battle for the final seat in the capital is vital for both Labour and Fianna Fail and will play a role in determining the leadership fates of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and opposition leader Micheal Martin.

The poll findings confirm deep resentment across the country over the Coalition's latest crippling charge.

Just 16 per cent of those surveyed think the water charges will be "fair and equitable". Six per cent said they "don't know".

Writing in today's Sunday Independent, leading economist Colm McCarthy says the average water charge per house of €240 annually announced by the Government "appears to be at far too low a level to remunerate the capital and operating costs involved" in setting up and running Irish Water.

Both Fine Gael and Labour are facing a massive backlash at the ballot box on Friday's trio of local, European and by-elections.

Aside from Dublin, Sinn Fein is also set to win seats in Ireland Midlands-North-West, where support for poll-topper Matt Carthy has jumped by two points to 19 per cent, and in Ireland South, where Liadh Ni Riada on 16 per cent lies in second place.

Also in the capital, there has been a huge rise in support for other anti-water charge candidates. Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy has seen his support rise from four to seven per cent. Ahead of the local elections, the party changed its official name to 'Stop the Water Tax – Party' and this title will appear on the ballot paper beside the candidates names.

People Before Profit candidate Brid Smith has risen one point to six per cent.

Already out of the hunt in Ireland South and Ireland MNW, Labour is now in serious danger of failing to win any seat in Europe.

Fianna Fail is also in a dogfight in Ireland MWN, so risks only coming back with one MEP, through veteran poll-topper Brian Crowley.

The initial announcement by Environment Minister Phil Hogan of the charges last month lit the spark for some of the bitterest coalition infighting since the Government was formed.

In the wake of a cabinet stand-off, the junior government party was mollified after protracted negotiations on concessions such as the abolition of the standing charge and help for disadvantaged groups.

However, increasing disbelief amongst voters that the €240 average charge will turn into yet another broken promise has ratcheted up tensions between the parties again.

The turnout in the local elections is expected to be low, reflecting isenchantment with the political system.

Sinn Fein's only concern at this point will be to ensure its voters turns out on the day.

On previous occasions the party has fallen short of opinion poll expectations as its protest vote has stayed at home.

An opinion poll in yesterday's Irish Independent revealed nearly half of voters believe Mr Adams was involved in the murder of Ms McConville.

Mr Adams attempted to put a gagging order to block the publication of the poll result, and then attacked its findings.

He said in a statement: "The publication of a poll in which respondents are asked to voice their opinion on my innocence or guilt is an extremely serious departure and another example of the Irish Independent's campaign against me and against Sinn Fein and their efforts to influence the election results."

However, Fine Gael's Brian Hayes last night said Sinn Fein will "say anything, do anything and lie about anything to win votes".

Referring to their opposition to water charges and other measures taken by the Government, the Dublin European elections candidate added: "They are a totally cynical populist political party who oppose everything. They are similar to UKIP in that regard."

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Hayes warned: "People must also realise the toxic danger of mixing socialism and nationalism, as we know from our European past, and Sinn Fein are in the vanguard of that. They are deeply fundamentalist, anti-European. For them it is not about policy but it is all about power."

New Children's Minister Charlie Flanagan said Mr Adams was right to be questioned about his past.

"It is quite clear that the Sinn Fein leadership has utterly failed to acknowledge, let alone address, issues from the past. They have repeatedly attempted to sweep such matters under the carpet, but voters must be alive to this," he said.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News