Poll rise not critical, says Martin
The results of a Red C poll published this afternoon in which Fianna Fáil recorded a small gain were not something to get overly concerned about, party leader Micheál Martin said.
The party saw another minor increase in the poll since the last Red C poll, and at 21 per cent is clearly now the second largest party, after Fine Gael at 29 per cent.
The gap in support between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael has fallen from almost 20 per cent to 8 per cent since the February 2011 election.
Mr Martin said: “The poll is something that we don’t get overly concerned about. It’s something that we will certainly analyse and reflect upon, but there is a lot more work to be done from that perspective.
“It’s steady progress, but as I have to say there’s a lot of work to be done and a long way to go … I don’t think people are quick to forget anything. I have been around the country knocking on doors and people are very conscious of the challenges they face in their daily lives.
Main Coalition party Fine Gael’s slight fall was a drop of one percentage point, while Labour seems to have halted for now a downward trend evident last year. Its standing of 13 per cent is unchanged since the last Red C poll.
Sinn Féin has dropped back from its high showings at the middle of last year. However, at 16 per cent, its support levels are still much higher than they were at the time of the general election in 2011.
In the region of a fifth of those polled indicated they would support independents or small parties.
On the performance of leaders, Mr Martin is the only party chief to have improved his score, although Taoiseach Enda Kenny still retains the highest approval percentage. Conversely, Mr Kenny's dissatisfaction ratings have also increased, from 27 per cent to 34 per cent.
The most interesting findings from the poll, commissioned by Paddy Power bookmakers, is that well over half of those who expressed an opinion believed Belfast City Council was wrong to restrict the flying of the Union Jack above Belfast City Hall.
Public opinion had not changed much since the budget and so it was “more or less as you were”, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said in response to the poll. “It shows that about six out of seven people who voted for us are still with us and still want us to make the necessary decisions. In that sense it’s encouraging, but we don’t take any of our supporters for granted.
“Fianna Fáil are certainly recovering some support, but are certainly well behind where Fine Gael is now. I’m sure before we do an election, people will be reminded of Micheál Martin’s role in the government that did so much damage to the country and that he was also the minister for foreign affairs when all those terrible deals were agreed on - promissory notes and some of those deals with Europe and the IMF.
“[I’m] a little bit [surprised]. I think Enda is doing a really excellent job. But I’ve seen that change before.”
Mr Martin added that he felt the Green Party “will recover some support. I think the electorate is volatile. People will respond to credible policies, but also to people and to good quality candidates. There’s an awful lot to play for.”
On Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte having called Fianna Fáil “chancers” on RTÉ 1’s Frontline TV programme earlier this week, he said: “It was an unfortunate use of language by Pat Rabbitte and I think an awful lot of people reacted negatively to the arrogance he displayed on Frontline.
“If he paid less attention to denigrating others and perhaps reflected on his own performance and the performance of Government and the agenda that he has, we would all be better off.”