Fine Gael TDs have privately raised fears the party could be dumped out of office by a Fianna Fáil-led minority government unless it tackles a worrying poll slump before the next election.
The concerns comes after an opinion poll released at the weekend placed Fianna Fáil on 28% compared to Fine Gael’s 23%, despite the parties being neck and neck just weeks earlier.
In the latest Behaviour and Attitudes poll, published in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Fianna Fáil was placed on top of the pile with an unchanged 28%.
They were followed by Fine Gael on 23% (down 5 percentage points), Sinn Féin on 12% (down 7), the Greens on 11% (up 6), Labour on 5% (up 1), the Independent Alliance unchanged on 3%, Solidarity-PBP on 2% (down 1), and the Social Democrats unchanged on 1%.
Sinn Féin’s slump means the party is now at its lowest base in eight years, hot on the heels of its disastrous local and European elections campaign.
In addition, the doubling of Greens support has led to growing belief in the party’s resurgence — if the public backing can be maintained past a short-term bump.
However, the most attention has been paid to the drop off in Fine Gael support compared to Fianna Fáil, with the first post-local and European elections poll seeing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s party fall far behind its long-standing rival.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a number of Fine Gael TDs said that while they believe the gap is a short-term blip, they are fearful it could lead to a general election defeat unless tackled.
While acknowledging the fallout from the recent Maria Bailey compensation case has played a factor in the fall in support, they said other issues like the damage caused to the party’s financial credentials by the children’s hospital and broadband are affecting the polls.
On Saturday, Mr Varadkar said he is in favour of a summer 2020 general election, appearing to rule out a snap election over the coming months. However, speculation has continued that either Mr Varadkar or Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin could force an election in early autumn.