Labour have attempted to hit back after a disastrous new low in the polls and warned that large-scale support for Sinn Féin in a general election would turn Ireland’s fortunes into those of Greece.
The Sinn Féin way was the Greece way, argued senior Labour minister Pat Rabbitte.
His comments came as an MRBI/Irish Times poll put support for Labour at just 10%, nearly half what it was in last year’s general election.
Sinn Féin, in contrast, has seen a surge in support, with 24% of respondents saying they would back it in a general election.
Support for Labour is down by 3% since the last such poll in April, while Sinn Féin’s has increased by the same amount.
Gerry Adams’ party has led the no campaign against the EU fiscal compact treaty in recent weeks. The television and radio coverage, where both sides must get equal media time, will have undoubtedly helped his party’s position.
Mr Adams is now also the most popular party leader, surpassing Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny by one percentage point and Labour’s Eamon Gilmore by 11 percentage points, the poll shows.
Support for the other parties, includes Fine Gael at 32%, Fianna Fáil at 17%, and Independents and others at 15%.
Reacting to the poll, Mr Rabbitte, the energy minister, said there was no general election for another four years and that Labour was focused on tackling the financial crisis rather than on polls.
“The Sinn Féin way is the Greece way. If the Irish people want to find themselves where the unfortunate people of Greece find themselves, then they follow the lead of Sinn Féin.”
He pointed to a Sunday poll which showed Labour had actually increased support over the same days by two points and that Sinn Féin had lost the same amount.
“Sinn Féin have clearly resolved on a calculated strategy which says that the worse our economic circumstances, get is better for Sinn Féin. I don’t think that’s in the best interests of what’s better for Ireland.
“You go the Sinn Féin way and it’s a cul de sac with this kind of ‘Mr Micawber’ economics that Mr Adams goes on about, something that turns up. Well tell that to the people of Greece.”
Mr Micawber was a Charles Dickens character who always lived in optimistic expectation of better fortune.
Mr Rabbitte said: “I wouldn’t take the responsibility for advising the Irish people that Mr Micawber-style economics is the responsible way to go.”
Sinn Féin treaty campaign director Eoin O’Broin said his party had received a “bounce” in the campaign.
“We’re trying to find ways of responding to the needs of people who are supporting us,” he said. “The important issues aren’t if Sinn Féin are up or down in the polls, it’s how we deal with the jobs crisis, the emigration crisis and the mortgage crisis.”
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