Change of Taoiseach favoured


A substantial majority of voters would like to see Taoiseach Brian Cowen stepping down from his post before the next general election,according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan is the popular favourite to succeed Mr Cowen if there is a change of leadership in Fianna Fáil.

Another finding of the poll is that Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has a commanding lead over Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny as the most popular choice for taoiseach if there is a change of government.

The poll was taken from a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.

When asked if they would like to see Mr Cowen remaining as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil until the next election, 61 per cent said he should step down, while 29 per cent said he should remain and just 10 per cent had no opinion. There was some consolation for Mr Cowen in that among Fianna Fáil voters the position was reversed with 61 per cent saying he should remain and 32 per cent saying he should go.

Supporters of all other parties wanted Mr Cowen to step aside.

Around the country the strongest backing for Mr Cowen came from the rest of Leinster where 40 per cent wanted him to stay on. The over-65s were most supportive and the 18 to 24-year-olds the most negative.

In class terms the most supportive of Mr Cowen were the best-off AB category. All other groups were almost equally hostile. Asked who should take Mr Cowen’s place if he stepped down, Brian Lenihan had a decisive lead with more than twice the level of support than the next most popular candidate. Mr Lenihan was supported by 39 per cent of voters followed by Micheál Martin on 18 per cent, Mary Hanafin on 8 per cent and Dermot Ahern on 6 per cent.

Among Fianna Fáil supporters Mr Lenihan’s lead is even more pronounced, with 50 per cent of his party’s voters backing him. In class terms he is strongest among the best-off AB voters and farmers.

Mr Martin’s strongest support comes from Munster where he scores 22 per cent. Ms Hanafin is much stronger among women than men and also scores well among younger voters. Mr Ahern’s strongest support is from skilled working-class voters. Surprisingly, he is more popular among FG and SF voters than among those in his own party.

Fine Gael's Enda Kenny said today he was not considering his position as party leader, despite his party’s poor showing in the poll published yesterday.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, he said he was “not fixated about any polls” and intends to be the next taoiseach.