Fianna Fáil has said that it remains the only credible alternative to Fine Gael as a governing party despite last night’s bombshell poll which showed Sinn Féin is now the most popular party in the country.
At Fianna Fáil HQ in Dublin this morning, ostensibly to address today’s teachers’ strike which has seen close to 400 second level schools across the country over pay inequality, the party’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said that it is “close to a decade” since any poll had accurately predicted where Fianna Fáil would finish.
His colleague Fiona O’Loughlin, TD for Kildare South, meanwhile said that her party would “absolutely not be reconsidering its position” on not being willing to go into coalition with Sinn Féin.
Mr Byrne said he remains “very happy” with the response being seen on the doorsteps.
“People are beginning to focus on the choices before them, and that is where Fianna Fáil excels,” he said.
“Sinn Féin wants to talk about the problems that exist, but not as to how they are going to address them. Every time they are challenged they attack.”
He said that “in the last number of years there have been more than 30 polls where we were behind Sinn Féin”.
“Polls tend to get us wrong, and they tend to get Sinn Féin wrong."
This is in reference to the perceived trend with Sinn Féin voters that they tend to not perform as well as their pre-election polling might suggest.
Mentions of Fine Gael were relatively few on the ground at the conference, despite Mr Byrne’s insistence that “people want them out of Government”.
“If you want Fine Gael out you need to vote for Fianna Fáil,” he said.
“We have a vision of change, but it’s a vision that can happen,” he insisted, adding that Sinn Fein’s proposals, which have drawn a deal of criticism as to how they can be funded given they appear to be double the amount of fiscal space the Department of Finance says can possibly be made available, “are not properly costed”.
Mr Byrne would not be drawn as to the reasons behind the consistent strong polling of Mary Lou McDonald’s party, nor as to the possibility that Fianna Fáil could be alienating Sinn Féin voters in terms of transfers by insisting it would not go into Government with them.
“Let’s see what’s being offered tonight, let’s see the same scrutiny applied to Sinn Féin,” he said.
“They are anti-business, they are anti-agriculture, and they’re completely uncosted,” added Ms O’Loughlin. “Our focus is on the ground, not on polls,” she said.
In terms of her own running rival, Kildare Sinn Féin councillor Patricia Ryan who is currently on holiday, Ms O’Loughlin said that Ms Ryan has shown herself as being “not a credible candidate”.
Mr Byrne added that Fianna Fáil would not be reconsidering its decision to run three candidates in the Tipperary constituency, regardless of the election results, given the poll in the Munster county will now not be held before the end of the month due to the sudden death of independent candidate Marese Skehan in Thurles yesterday.
He offered his “deepest sympathies to the family and friends” of Ms Skehan. “I’m sure it must be a very traumatic time for them,” he added.