Opinion Poll Analysis
Last night the Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI released the latest opinion poll which has sent shockwaves through the mainstream political parties. According to the survey of 1,200 people,Sinn Féin is the most popular party with its support up 4 points to 25%. However, when those surveyed were asked which political or parties they would not like to see in government, Sinn Féin came out on top. A major problem for Sinn Féin in translating its vote in toseats is the fact it is onlyrunning 42 candidates in 38 constituencies.
Fianna Fáil’s rather flat campaign has seen the party struggle to gain momentum and this poll suggests its support is down 2 points to 23%. There is further bad news for Fine Gael with its support down 3 points to20%. The Green Party’s support is stagnant at 8% while Labour continues to struggle to make headways at 4%(-1).
On satisfaction with the main party leaders, Mary Lou McDonald is the big winner with her popularity up 7 points to 41%, making her the most popular leader in the country. Leo Varadkar’s personal rating is down 5 points to 30% while Micheál Martin is also struggling, down 3 points to 30%.
In a further twist, RTÉ yesterday bowed to mounting pressure and invited Mary Lou McDonald to participate in tonight’s televised leaders’ debate which had been scheduled to only involve Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin. The inclusion of McDonald will be a pivotal moment in the final days of the campaign. The Sinn Féin leader will be subject to intense scrutiny from her opponents who detect that the party’s record support may be movable in the final days of the campaign.
On the Campaign Trail
Fine Gael supporters will be praying that the Taoiseach can pull of his best performance yet and land significant punches in tonight’s televised debate which could have close to 1 million viewers tuning in. The challenge for Varadkar will be to acknowledge that there is a significant cohort of voters that don’t trust the party on health and housing while also putting forward his policies in those two areas. The Taoiseach will likely intensify his call for voters to trust his party on the economy and will reiterate the party’s mantra that only with a strong economy can voters have the policies they desire.
We can expect bitter exchanges between Martin and McDonald in particular which may give Varadkar a window of opportunity to position his party as having the necessary policies in place that resonate with voters. In a campaign that has struggled to take off for Fine Gael, the Taoiseach has an uphill challenge.
Fianna Fáil remains on course to be the largest party at this weekend’s vote with the party also receiving the highest preference for being involved in a coalition government. The coalition of Fianna Fail, The Green Party and Labour polled as the most popular option for a new government.
The party is hosting a press conference on education this morning lead by Thomas Byrne, Spokesperson for Education and Fiona O’Loughlin, spokesperson for Equality. Party leader Micheál Martin will appear on the RTE leaders’ debate alongside Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald.
Sinn Féin will be hoping that McDonald, when put under the spotlight in tonight’s debate, will perform. On the left of the political spectrum, SF represents radical change and in an ideal world would hope to lead a progressive government. As mentioned above, SF is only running 42 candidates in 38 constituencies, so it is still unlikely to be the biggest party in the next government, even though currently a quarter of all likely voters now stay they intend to vote for the party.
Today McDonald said she would not make a border poll on a United Ireland a red line issue for future coalition talks. She told RTÉ that “no responsible incoming government can continue to bury its head in the sand. The preparations [for a United Ireland] need to start.” She was also questioned about the subvention(€11 billion) Northern Ireland receives from the UK and said, “there will have to be a negotiation with the British government”.
The Labour Party launched its plans to solve the housing crisis and eradicate homelessness. Spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan said the problem had become the defining issue of a generation, criticising the ideology of the outgoing government which has led to an over-reliance on the private market and which she said has failed to deliver affordable homes for those who need them. Labour plans to build 80,000 social and affordable homes to buy and rent on public land over a five-year period, through the creation of a €16 billion fund. This funding will be high quality and energy efficient. Labour is also proposing a rent freeze, rent caps for a limited period, longer term leases, to stop unfair evictions, a Deposit Protection Scheme, and an NCT-style inspection of rental properties.
Education Spokesperson and candidate for Dublin Bay North Aodhán Ó Ríordáin came out in support of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland which strikestoday against the discriminatory two-tier pay system. Ending this unjust system will be a priority for the party in the upcoming public sector pay negotiations. The party said paying colleagues different wages to carry out the same job is detrimental to workplace morale.
Health Spokesperson Alan Kelly said the next government must put a renewed focus on cancer prevention and make life easier for those who are living with a cancer diagnosis. The party will extend BreastCheck to women ages 65-69 and bowel screening to 55-74 to enhance early detection, save lives, and ensure cost-effective treatment. The party is also proposing other measures such as a nationwide ban on smoky coal, and the extension ofthe availability of the HPV vaccine.
The Green Party leader Eamon Ryan spoke at the official party campaign launch in the five Cork constituencies yesterday. The party are running candidates in all 5 constituencies with the leader stating that the party believes that all of the candidates have a strong chance of taking a seat in the area. He added “I think Cork wants to go green” and “is ready to go green”.
Party deputy leader Catherine Martin appeared on the Claire Byrne Live ‘Climate’ debate last night and reiterated the party’s stance against the importation of fracked oil. Ireland have banned fracking gas but with the proposed development of the Shannon Liquefied Natural gas terminal, questions have been raised to parties about banning the importation of the gas. The Green Party has a very firm stance against this importation of this gas.
Aontú, whose party leader Peadar Tóibín was expelled from Sinn Féin for his position on abortion, has been given a space on RTÉ’s Leaders’ Debate thisThursday. Aontú launched its United Ireland policy yesterday. It has launched the All-Ireland Representation Bill and pledges to take steps to ensure a unity referendum by 2024, and implement a New Ireland Forum to discuss the country’s future. The party is standing on the platform of prioritising regional balance and quality of life concerns and challenging the establishment’s “herd mentality and group think”. Aontú’s proposals revolve around ensuring economic prosperity and justice, regional development, and challenging vested interests.
Tóibín has today cautioned that voting for Sinn Féin or Fianna Fáil may lead to Fine Gael getting back into government as both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are open to going into coalition with Leo Varadkar’s party.
Tomorrow Aontú will launch its Struggling Families policy.
Quotes of the Day
–“We are saying no to filthy fracked gas”
Catherine Martin, Deputy Leader of the Green Party on the importation of fracked gas through the proposed Shannon LNG terminal.