Coalition will survive - Cowen


Taoiseach Brian Cowen tonight insisted that his Government will see out its five year term and that there will be no change in its current strategy.

Speaking in Ennis following an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showing that Fianna Fail’s support has
dropped five points to 17 per cent, Mr Cowen said the Government “has to make sure that we persevere with the strategy we are adopting because it is the best way of achieving recovery in our economy and getting growth, getting employment, getting jobs going again”.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said the latest poll, which showed his party as the most popular party in the State, marked an "historic first". Mr Gilmore said the country needed political change and increasing numbers of people were looking to the Labour Party to provide that change.

“To have been placed in the lead position in a major national opinion poll, obviously I’m very pleased with that,” he said.

“This Government is really at the end of its life. It’s now serving out its notice. I think it’s not in the interests of the country to have a Government continuing in office that is clapped-out, that the people have no confidence in and that really are just now in damage limitation mode."

Mr Cowen, whose approval rating has dipped eight points to 18 per cent, said support for Fianna Fáil has been down for some time and that the party has to continue to work as an organisation and to communicate with the people.

“I think everyone has recognised that this country has come through a very difficult juncture. There is still a lot
more work to be done," he said.

“I think it is very important that we not suggest to ourselves that work has been completed.We are on a road that is difficult but necessary and as I say, we are seeing the results from people who are looking in on how this country is doing and the strategic direction we’re taking."

The poll published today showed the adjusted figures for party support, compared with the last Irish Times poll on January 20th last, were Fianna Fáil, 17 per cent (down five points); Fine Gael, 28 per cent (down four points); Labour, 32 per cent (up eight points); Sinn Féin, 9 per cent (up one point); Green Party, 3 per cent (no change); and Independents/ Others, 11 per cent (no change).

On the party leaders, Mr Cowen gets a satisfaction rating of 18 per cent (down eight points); Mr Kenny is on 24 per cent (down seven points); Mr Gilmore is on 46 per cent (no change); John Gormley, 21 per cent (down three points) and Gerry Adams, 31 per cent (no change).

Labour Party TD Joan Burton said the political landscape in the country had “changed beyond all recognition” over the last three years and called for Eamon Gilmore to be given the opportunity to take part in a three-way leaders debate ahead of the next election.

“The critical issue is whether or not the media will give the voting public in Ireland the opportunity to see each of the parties, to see each of the party leaders and then it’s for the voters to make a choice.”

She said she felt Fianna Fáil performed particularly badly in the poll on the back of the decision to invest €22billion in Anglo Irish Bank.

Fianna Fáil‘s Michael Ahern told RTÉ the result was “very dissatisfying”.

He said while the Government has to continue to take “correct actions to bring the economy back on even keel” the decisions taken “are not easy ones and that is affecting our support in the country at the moment.”

Fine Gael’s Kieran O'Donnell said while his party would have liked to have fared better the main story of the poll is Labour’s success.

He said: “For 25 of the last polls we have been consistently the largest party...this is a moment in time, it’s a good poll for Labour it’s a reasonable poll for us.”

“You can’t ignore the fact that Fianna Fáil are on 17 per cent and the two Opposition parties effectively very much in a majority situation so I think the public are sending out a message in terms of wanting an election.”

Mr O’Donnell said the challenge for Fine Gael is to continue to get its message across in “very much a concise fashion”.