Tánaiste Michael McDowell will today open his first national conference as Progressive Democrats leader as the party languishes at its lowest-ever position in the polls.
The party usually rates at 3% to 4 % but collapsed to 1% in the latest TNS mrbi national poll on February 1.
However Mr McDowell’s satisfaction rating as party leader climbed six points to 44% compared to 56% for the Taoiseach.
The three-day PD conference, themed ’New Ireland. New Opportunities’ is being held in Wexford to boost the general election hopes of local candidate Colm O’Gorman.
Mr McDowell’s first leader’s address will be screened on RTE on Saturday evening following a warm-up introduction by deputy leader Liz O’Donnell.
Former party leader and Minister for Health Mary Harney will go head to head with one of her strongest critics – Irish Nursing Organisation general secretary Liam Doran – in a debate on the health service.
The ’Health: What Works, What Can Work Better’ discussion will also include contributions by Dr Gary Courtney of St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny and Minister Tim O’Malley.
The INO is planning nationwide work stoppages to achieve better pay, a 35-hour week and a bonus for working in Dublin.
Ms Harney has urged the nurses to sign up to the Towards 2016 wage agreement and process their claims through proper industrial channels.
Local hotelier and former Wexford hurling manager Liam Griffin is scheduled to speak at the PD conference on the role of sport in education.
European Liberal Democrats leader and MEP, Annemie Neyts will contribute to a discussion on third level education as will TCD economics lecturer Dr Sean Barrett and Ibec official Ray Farrelly.
The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Sustainable Development, John Gilliland, Airtricity chief Eddie O’Connor and Gerry McCaughey of Kingspan Century will make presentations on sustainability chaired by Minister of State Tom Parlon.
Labour held its national conference last weekend and Sinn Féin, Fine Gael, the Greens and Fianna Fáil will hold their pre-election gatherings in coming weeks.