The more personalised targeting of Mr Martin over his own track record while in power during the boom is likely to be focussed on by the Fine Gael leader this evening as he attempts to cut short the rival party’s bid to win over the electorate.
The latest Red C opinion poll of the general election campaign, published in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, shows that despite the repeated emphasis on the recovery, the coalition has seen its public support slump 5% — a situation that is potentially opening the door to Fianna Fáil.
Fine Gael is now on 28% (down 3%), Labour 8% (down 2%), Sinn Féin 20% (up 3%), Fianna Fáil 18% (up 1%), Independents 13%, Independent Alliance 3%, Social Democrats 4%, Anti-Austerity Alliance-People before Profit 3%, Greens 2% and Renua 1%
While no party wished to claim victory during last Thursday’s first live TV debate between Mr Kenny, Mr Martin, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Labour leader Joan Burton, Mr Martin was generally felt to have been the most authoritative.
The conclusion has added to a growing view that Fianna Fáil is so far performing better than Fine Gael and Labour, and could be in contention to form the next government. And, while its poll standing has not risen to reflect this, Mr Kenny is expected to go on the attack tonight to cut short the opposition challenge.
Meanwhile, tonight’s RTÉ 1 debate — which will take place at the University of Limerick from 9.35pm until 11.10pm — will see the four main party leaders joined by Social Democrats’ Stephen Donnelly, AAA-PbP’s Richard Boyd Barrett and Renua’s Lucinda Creighton.
The debate — which could also see Green Party leader Eamon Ryan take part if the party wins a High Court ruling due at 2pm — will take place in front of an audience hand-picked by Red C and involve audience questions selected by RTÉ executives and political academics.
TV3 will separately hold a deputy leaders debate tonight at 10.30pm, hosted by Mick Clifford of the Irish Examiner.
While a third leaders debate involving Mr Kenny, Mr Martin, Mr Adams and Ms Burton will take place on Tuesday week — three days before the vote — another debate on TG4 this week is in doubt due to Mr Adams and Ms Burton’s inability to fully debate in Irish.