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Michael Brennan: Small comfort as FF claws back a little support

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen can take some comfort from a poll which shows a slight rise in his personal rating and support for Fianna Fail.

It is the second opinion poll in a row that Mr Cowen's personal rating has improved. He was at a low of 15pc but now stands at 26pc. And his party is up 2pc to 22pc.

Many Government TDs will also be relieved that satisfaction with the coalition is up 5pc to 19pc.

A rise of any sort must surely be seen as a mini-triumph, given last month's swingeing Budget and the less than impressive response to the weather crisis.

It is impossible to tell -- but perhaps the outstanding honesty and bravery of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in his battle with cancer has played a part here.

But the fact remains that just one-in-five voters are satisfied with the Government's performance. That shows that Mr Lenihan's talk of the economy "turning the corner" has not convinced them yet.

Fine Gael will again be happy to be able to describe itself as the largest party in the state in the Irish Times/Ipsos, MRBI poll. Since the previous survey last September, it is up 1pc to 32pc, which means it is still 10pc ahead of Fianna Fail.

But there is disappointing news for party leader Enda Kenny, whose personal rating is down 1pc to 31pc.

Although Labour has dropped by 1pc to 24pc, it will be happy that it is still rated the second largest party, ahead of Fianna Fail. Eamon Gilmore is still the most popular party leader despite dropping 1pc to 46pc.

Overall, the alternative coalition of Fine Gael and Labour still have a comfortable majority of 56pc and are on course to form the next government. But Mr Cowen can take comfort from the fact that he is still hanging on grimly, when many had predicted there would be a real poll by now.

Things haven't improved for the Greens since their crushing defeat in the local elections last summer. They are down 1pc to 3pc, despite their achievement in renegotiating the Programme for Government, which included a guarantee that third level fees would not be re-introduced.

But leader John Gormley will be heartened by the 2pc rise in his personal rating to 24pc.

Sinn Fein continues to languish in the doldrums with its support dropping by 1pc to 8pc.

Irish Independent