FACTIONS within Fine Gael blamed each other for the party’s poor poll ratings as discontent with Enda Kenny resurfaced.
However, Fine Gael rebels appeared divided on whether to renew efforts to oust their leader after voter surveys showed he was dragging the party down with him. One member of the anti-Kenny camp said: “It would have made a difference if we had got rid of him (Kenny) in June, but it’s too late now.”
But others in Fine Gael who supported the heave warned that if slippage in the polls continued it could not go ignored.
Fine Gael saw its ratings slump four points to 30% as Labour stormed past it to become the most popular party with 35% in a TV3/Millward Brown poll.
Deputy FG leader and Kenny loyalist James Reilly blamed the heave for the poor poll showing, saying it had been a “tough summer” but the leadership issue had now been put to bed.
He warned the “internal difficulties” – when half the shadow cabinet demanded Mr Kenny’s resignation – had prevented the party getting its message across. Mr Reilly said voters should now “give the man the job, give the party the chance” as they had to choose between the country being led by an “icon” or by a team.
Fianna Fáil dropped 5% to 22% in the survey, but Taoiseach Brian Cowen insisted his mandate came from commanding a majority in the Dáil, not “snapshot” polls.
His stance was in marked contrast to a bullish Mr Gilmore who said that Labour was now on course to win more than 50 seats at the next election and was set to boost its number of candidates from 65 to more than 80.
Mr Gilmore said that a Labour-led government was now a realistic aim as 36% favoured him as Taoiseach – more than the support for Mr Kenny on 19% and Mr Cowen, on 11%, combined.
The Labour leader denied he was so far ahead because he expressed popular anger without providing detailed policy alternatives as he called on the Government not to cut public spending by more than the already indicated €3bn in the December budget.
“That kind of chopping and changing and uncertainty that is giving rise to the lack of confidence internationally, is reflected in the higher interest rates the country is now being charged on the international markets,” he told RTÉ.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan again came to the defence of the Taoiseach in the wake of the poll insisting there was no vacancy to lead Fianna Fáil.
Government Chief Whip, John Curran, insisted Fianna Fáil would rally before the next election.
Mr Cowan said his poor personal ratings would not see him change course.
“Of course we have seen since this crisis began a fall in support for the Government. But the policies we are pursuing I can assure you are the ones that are necessary to maintain prosperity for our country in the future and to make the adjustments now,” he said.
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