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Andrew Lynch: New poll shows that 2016 election is still wide open

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Enda Kenny.

Enda Kenny.

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Earlier this week Enda Kenny was caught on camera jaywalking through cars as he made his way across Merrion Street.

Happily for fans of the Taoiseach (below), he is still standing - politically as well as personally. The first major opinion poll of 2015 has shown Fine Gael and Labour gaining 5pc between them, suggesting that the next general election remains very much up for grabs.

Nobody in Government Buildings should get too excited just yet. If Ireland was choosing a new coalition tomorrow, then Fine Gael at 24pc (up three) and Labour at 8pc (up two) would have nowhere near enough Dail seats to earn a second term.

On the other hand, Sinn Fein (21pc, down three) and Fianna Fail (18pc, down one) would also fall way short of the target.

As usual with opinion polls, there are various theories to explain the result. It may be that the tax cuts and child benefit increase announced in last October's budget are starting to take effect. It may be that the public's fury over Irish Water has finally subsided.

Or it may simply be that the Dail has been on holidays, and the less voters see of Enda Kenny's team, the more we like them.

Whatever the reason, ministers will be grateful for the first evidence in ages that they have stopped the rot. However, one figure in the Red C poll for Paddy Power must make them feel extremely nervous.

broker

Independents are attracting 28pc support, a damning vote of no confidence in all the major parties - and proof that there is huge potential for a new force to change Irish politics for good.

Right now, Shane Ross seems to be winning this particular race. Even before his alliance of independent candidates is officially unveiled, 12pc of voters say they would give it their number one.

Ross suffered a slight setback yesterday when the high-profile Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly refused to join his gang, but he still seems to have more than enough backers to make himself a major power broker.

For Lucinda Creighton, the news is middling at best. A measly 1pc would vote for her Reboot Ireland project today, although 6pc say they might reconsider when she has finally revealed some policies.

Lucinda is certainly did herself no favours this week by holding a press briefing for female journalists only - a gimmick that seems designed to challenge her social conservative image.

The big question remains: who is going to form the next government? On these latest figures the most likely outcome would be a historic partnership between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, probably backed up by Shane Ross's independent alliance.

Only 15pc, however, choose this as their preferred coalition - by sheer coincidence exactly the same number who say that watching the RTE drama 'Charlie' makes them wish someone like Haughey was Taoiseach again.

To sum it all up, the only certainty for Irish politics in 2015 is uncertainty. As the election draws closer, many Government TDs will become gripped by the fear of losing their jobs.

Labour's prospects look particularly dim, with virtually all of their big names in serious danger - up to and including Joan Burton herself.

referendum

As the latest poll shows, however, all is not yet lost. Ireland's economic forecasts range from good to excellent, which means that Michael Noonan should have at least some money to hand out later in the year.

Fine Gael and Labour may also earn some respect from winning May's referendum on same-sex marriage, with the new survey showing it will be passed by an overwhelming 80-20 margin.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein need to start asking themselves some hard questions. Micheal Martin and Gerry Adams both insisted this week that they are preparing for power, but kept dodging the issue of who might share a coalition bed with them.

They fail to appreciate that the rise of independents has created a whole new ball game.

The longest general election campaign in Irish history is about to kick off. Enda Kenny is down but not completely out.

After his catastrophic 2014, that has to be counted as some sort of victory.


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