Opposition parties have today said that there is a strong anti-Government sentiment on the eve of the Meath East by-election.
Less than 24 hours until polling stations open to elect a successor to the late Shane McEntee, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil warned a hard-pressed and angered public could bare their teeth at the ballot box.
In a last-ditch plea on behalf of Sinn Féin candidate Darren O’Rourke, party president Gerry Adams said struggling families were sick of the Government’s broken promises.
“There is a very, very hostile attitude, quite rightly, to austerity and what the Government is doing,” Mr Adams said, “and a very, very positive and very warm response to Sinn Fein. Hopefully that will convert into votes tomorrow.”
Mr Adams refused to align himself with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, insisting a vote for that party would be no different to supporting the Fine Gael-Labour Government.
Fianna Fáil has urged Sinn Féin voters to transfer to their candidate, Thomas Byrne.
“We can shake this system up and lead this Government back to the election promises it made, and start the building of an alternative way forward,” Mr Adams added.
Fine Gael are hoping that its candidate Helen McEntee – the daughter of the late Mr McEntee, who died before Christmas, can take her father's seat.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny got a taste of the anger towards his Government as he canvassed with Ms McEntee yesterday – when he was cornered by a garda angered by cuts.
The race for the single seat looks set to be a showdown between Ms McEntee and Mr Byrne.
Fianna Fáil leader Deputy Martin warned there was little Government support in Meath East.
He said he had encountered a lot of people while canvassing who were “annoyed” over cuts to child benefits and education.
“I’ve been out and about in the constituency quite a lot and we have picked up a lot of anti-Government sentiment,” Mr Martin said.
He said people should consider what each candidate could bring to the Dáil.
He added that Fianna Fáil was solution-driven and had strong experience in the area of mortgage arrears – an issue which has brought much of the nation to their knees as borrowers struggle to pay their bills.
“There is no endorsement of the Government on the doorsteps of Meath East – of that you can be sure,” Mr Martin said.
“Whether it’s property tax to cuts to child benefit, or indeed the education cuts and the broken promises, people are angry out there.”
The Workers’ Party joined Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil in making its last call for votes.
Candidate Seamus McDonagh was flanked by left-wing TDs John Halligan and Richard Boyd Barrett as he too urged the public to vote against the Government.
Labour candidate Eoin Holmes was yesterday supported by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton during his campaign trail at Ashbourne in Meath.
Polling stations will be open tomorrow between 8am and 9pm.