Sinn Féin's popularity drops as impact of Hutch trial hits support

Sinn Féin led by its President Mary Lou McDonald had seen its support surge upward consistently since the 2020 General Election.
Sinn Féin's popularity drops as impact of Hutch trial hits support

Coverage of Jonathan Dowdall’s conversations with Gareth Hutch while under surveillance included Dowdall’s criticism of Mary Lou McDonald for not attending the funeral of Eddie Hutch, the brother of Gerry Hutch. Picture: Damien Storan/PA Wire

Sinn Féin’s popular support has fallen to its lowest level in over a year to 31%, while Fine Gael has been given a boost ahead of re-taking the Taoiseach’s office, according to a new national opinion poll.

Sinn Féin led by its President Mary Lou McDonald has seen its support surge upward consistently since the 2020 General Election but its first major reversal since September 2021 sees it down four points from a high of 35%, according to the latest Red C poll published in the Business Post.

Extensive negative media coverage surrounding the long-running Special Criminal Court trial of Gerry Hutch for the Regency Hotel murder and the involvement of former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall has blunted the party’s sting in recent weeks.

There has been daily coverage of Dowdall’s conversations with Hutch while under surveillance. These included Dowdall’s criticism of McDonald for not attending the funeral of Eddie Hutch, the brother of Gerry Hutch.

Tied to this is Sinn Féin’s poor budget performance and call for caps to energy bills which was seen to equate to a major windfall to the energy companies.

There will be some happiness within Leo Varadkar’s party that despite being in government for 11 years, they are now by some margin the second most popular party in the country.

Fine Gael’s support is up three points to 24%, its second consecutive increase in the Red C poll series. 

The party now commands a significant lead over Fianna Fáil which has dropped one point to 15%. 

This gap will be a major concern to Fianna Fáil members who are bracing themselves for losing the Taoiseach’s office and the driving seat in government on December 17.

This Red C poll showed that the public are overwhelmingly negative about the government’s record on health, with just 18% believing it is doing a good job.

There is speculation among government backbenchers that the appointment of junior ministers may be delayed until the following week to lessen any potential backlash from backbenchers who miss out.

The poll also reveals that the housing crisis remains the dominant political issue, with 84% of those polled by Red C believing that the government is handling the housing crisis badly.

The gamble taken by Fianna Fáil in wanting control of the health and housing portfolios in 2020 when the government was formed has damaged its electoral standings, the poll indicates.

The overall state of the parties is: Sinn Féin on 31%, down four, Fine Gael on 24%, up three; Fianna Fáil on 15% support, down 1; Green Party on 5% up one; Labour Party on 4%, no change; Social Democrats, on 4%, no change; People Before Profit / Solidarity 3%, no change; Aontú on 2%, up one; Independents are unchanged at 11%.

Red C interviewed more than 1,000 voters for their online poll, between Friday November 18 and Wednesday November 23.

The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 3%.

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