Public says Lenihan is 'only hope' to save FF
Poll: Finance Minister is the sole challenger to Gilmore's popularity
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is now the only politician challenging Labour leader Eamon Gilmore in terms of popular public support, according to a Sunday Independent/ Quantum Research telephone poll.
Mr Lenihan (24 per cent) is only four points behind Mr Gilmore (28 per cent) when respondents were asked who they would like to see as Taoiseach after the General Election.
The finding may encourage Fianna Fail TDs -- anxious to avoid losing their own seats in the next election, and reported to be "feverishly" plotting against Mr Cowen -- to try to persuade Mr Lenihan, if his health permits, to challenge the Taoiseach for the leadership of Fianna Fail this autumn.
Last week, Mr Lenihan's brother, Minister of State Conor Lenihan, addressed the issue to claim that there was "little appetite" for any conspiracies, heaves or trouble for the party leadership "this summer".
Whether he intended to, or not, Conor Lenihan, who subsequently added that he was not his "brother's keeper", has left open the possibility that dissent within Fianna Fail could spill over at some later stage.
He cited turmoil surrounding the recent "failed coup" in Fine Gael as "enough to dampen enthusiasm for a similar move within Fianna Fail".
Today's opinion poll also shows that the public has still not warmed to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, a finding that may place the issue of his leadership back on the agenda later this year.
Voters are continuing to move steadily from Fianna Fail to Labour, to the extent that Labour is now neck and neck with Fine Gael, according to the telephone poll of 500 people nationwide.
A significant proportion of respondents also indicated to the pollsters, unprompted, that they would like to see a new political party established, a finding which may encourage the former Progressive Democrat leader, Michael McDowell, who is reported to be considering such a move.
The poll found that while the satisfaction rating of Mr Gilmore has fallen, he is still more popular than Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny combined -- only the Finance Minister now challenges Mr Gilmore in popularity.
A clear majority (69 per cent) still favour the formation of a Fine Gael-Labour coalition after the next election and a growing majority (62 per cent) want that election to be held this autumn.
On the issue of Anglo Irish Bank, 70 per cent said the government should end its €24bn commitment to the bank, while 30 per cent said it should not.
The poll offers no respite for the Government and FF in the quieter summer months, a time when public sentiment traditionally softens.
When asked last week which party would get a first-preference vote in the event of General Election, the poll found levels of support as follows: Fianna Fail (14 per cent), down four points on September 2009; Fine Gael (25 per cent), down one point; Labour (24 per cent), up three points; Greens (3 per cent), down one point, Sinn Fein (3 per cent), down one point; independents (4 per cent), down one point; and 'don't knows' (27 per cent), up five points.
Quantum Research said: "Interestingly, there is a five-point increase in the figure for 'don't knows', going up from 22 per cent last year to 27 per cent this time round. This ties in with a lot of people's anger with the current political system as a whole, and their refusal to countenance voting for anyone. Many of these people would also like to see the establishment of a new party."
The popularity of the Taoiseach has continued to drop, with Brian Cowen (19 per cent), down five points since September 2009. As for the other leaders, Enda Kenny (22 per cent), was down nine points, Eamon Gilmore (54 per cent), fell four points, John Gormley (23 per cent) lost four points, and Gerry Adams (14 per cent) was down two points.
Dissatisfaction with Mr Cowen (79 per cent) was up eight points; Mr Kenny (70 per cent), up 10 points, Mr Gilmore (35 per cent), up three points; Mr Gormley (68 per cent), up two points and Mr Adams (65 per cent) down nine points.
Asked who would make the best Taoiseach after the election, voters said: Brian Cowen (5 per cent), Brian Lenihan (24 per cent), Enda Kenny (12 per cent), Richard Bruton (12 per cent), Eamon Gilmore (28 per cent), 'don't know' (19 per cent).
Mr Lenihan was also clearly the most popular when respondents were asked who would be the best leader of Fianna Fail: Brian Cowen (8 per cent); Brian Lenihan (42 per cent), Mary Hanafin (9 per cent), Micheal Martin (12 per cent), Dermot Ahern (6 per cent), and 'don't know' (23 per cent).
Respondents have still not connected with the Fine Gael leader. Asked who would be the best leader of Fine Gael, voters replied: Enda Kenny (19 per cent), Richard Bruton (37 per cent), Leo Varadkar (10 per cent), Simon Coveney (10 per cent), Brian Hayes (3 per cent), and 'don't know' (21 per cent).
Asked if there should be an election this autumn, voters said: Yes (62 per cent), up four points; No (38 per cent), down four points.