Senior Fine Gael strategists believe the party is only marginally short of achieving an opinion poll rating that would finally prompt the Taoiseach to call an early general election.
Fine Gael politicians with a direct involvement in election strategy say they have been told to be prepared for the prospect of a November poll.
There has been a growing desire among Fine Gael ministers in particular for Enda Kenny to call a snap election following the Coalition’s final Budget on October 13.
But hopes within Fine Gael of an early election stalled somewhat yesterday, after a new opinion poll showed the Government’s support is short of the level required to be re-elected to power.
The Ipsos/MRBI poll for the Irish Times shows Fine Gael’s support has remained steady at 28pc, while the Labour Party has seen its support increase by one point to 8pc.
However, sources within Fine Gael said last night that the party would need to break the 30pc barrier before a decision was taken to go to the polls earlier than already signalled by the Taoiseach.
A senior source said if the next couple of opinion polls show an increase in support for the larger coalition partner, then an early election is “very much on the cards”.
“In the last few days alone we have been told to be prepared. The Taoiseach definitely is weighing up the prospect of going early,” the source told the Herald.
A Labour minister said the party is enthused by the drop in support for Sinn Fein, adding that it is reflective of feedback received on the doorsteps.
Support for Gerry Adams fell two points to 19pc.
“It gives us belief that some of the voters we have lost to Sinn Fein in recent years are now coming back to us. That’s positive for the Labour Party,” the source added.
The setback for Sinn Fein is being attributed in some political circles to the recent controversy surrounding the re-emergence of the Provisional IRA, as well as the ongoing impasse in the North. Fianna Fail will be concerned that its support remains stagnant at 20pc. Independents/Others are up 1pc.
Satisfaction with the Government is at 30pc and Mr Kenny’s rating has remained steady at 31pc – the highest rating of any leader. Health Minister Leo Varadkar said the Government was buoyed by the poll result.