Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is insisting that Fine Gael will fight to recover in the election campaign and that a tough poll for his party was taken before Fianna Fáil's “Swiss cheese” manifesto launch.
Speaking in Dun Laoghaire, south Dublin, where he said Fine Gael still hoped to take two of the four seats, Mr Varadkar admitted it was halftime and that his party was losing.
His defence comes after a Red C poll this weekend put Fine Gael down seven points to 23%, the lowest ever under Mr Varadkar's tenure. while Fianna Fail have gained two to 26%.
The poll also found just 12% of voters trusted Fine Gael to fix housing and only 14% did for health.
But Mr Varadkar, when pressed by the Irish Examiner on the results, claimed the poll was taken before last Wednesday's head-to-head debate he had with Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and before the latter published its spending plans on Friday morning:
“But I look at it like this, you know, it's halftime, we're probably about three points down. But politics is hurling not soccer. And we're going to pull this one back.
And there may well be people in Fianna Fail who are already measuring the curtains, promising people jobs as advisors, talking about bringing back the Garda cars, but we're not complacent and we're going to work and fight for every single vote until the polls close.”
His attack on and claims against Fianna Fail also come ahead of the next election TV debate tomorrow, which will see seven leaders fight it out on RTE's Claire Byrne Live, which is being held in Galway.
Separately, Mr Varadkar has also disagreed with a Green Party election policy published on the weekend, which proposed examining the phasing out of homework for primary schools. Asked about the idea from the Greens, who has said could be coalition partners, he said:
"We're open to new ideas, but I have to see good evidence from education experts that would suggest that's a good idea.”