Crisis in Fine Gael as support drops five points in 10 days

By Daniel McConnell, Juno McEnroe and Fiachra O Cionnaith, Irish Examiner

Fine Gael is in crisis tonight as the party’s popular support has fallen for the third successive time, a new Red C poll has revealed.

According to the poll which was conducted for the Irish Sun, Fine Gael’s support has slipped to just 26%, which is drop of five points in 10 days.

It is also a full 10% below of its 2011 General Election share of the vote.

The poll, which was conducted after the first televised debate of the campaign last week, is a major wake-up call for Enda Kenny who is seeking to be the first Fine Gael leader ever to be re-elected Taoiseach.

The poll shows support for the Labour Party is up one point to 9%. Despite this increase, support for the Coalition is nowhere near the required level to be re-elected.

Speaking in Dundalk at the launch of plans to help long term unemployed people back to work, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said despite growing suggestions no party or coalition will win the election he does not expect that we are heading towards a hung Dáil.

On Monday, after days of increasing speculation, the Fine Gael leader finally ruled out doing any deal with Fianna Fáil.

However, with a grand coalition now off the table, it is unclear what if any combination of parties could occur to ensure there is a stable government after the February 26 vote, increasing the possibility of a second 2016 election.

Meanwhile, support for Fianna Fáil is up one point to 19% and reflects the reasonably good campaign so far for the party.

Sinn Féin’s call for abolishing the Special Criminal Court is one of the factors which has seen the party’s support fall three points to 17%.

Overall, the independents and others group have seen their support increase to 29%, up three points.

Within that group, the Independent Alliance is at 5% an increase of 2 points.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit group are at 2% down one, while the Social Democrats are also down one point and now stand at 3%.

Lucinda Creighton’s Renua Ireland party are at 2% up one, while the Green Party are at 4% up 2 points.

Former Fine Gael director of elections Frank Flannery has questioned where the "young leaders" of Fine Gael are in the election campaign, as he criticised the party for being "complacent" in trying to get its message across to voters.

He questioned why young Fine Gael ministers, like Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, were not playing a “dominant role” in the campaign as opposed to the “ghosts of old battles and old wars”.

The ex-party strategist also told Newstalk’s Lunchtime Show that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil might have to go into government together for “the national interest”- despite both party leaders denying they would.

"There are lots of dynamic young politicians in Dáil Éireann but none of them are represented in the leadership we're being presented in this election."

"Where is Leo Varadkar, where is Simon Coveney, where is the young leadership of the party? Why aren't they playing a dominant role in this debate, representing the new Ireland and the new generation that's coming up?”

On a possible coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Mr Flannery said:

“The national needs have to come first and everybody has to revisit their perceptions when the counting is done. National interests must come first before all party considerations.”

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