Fianna Fáil hits historic low after 10% fall in poll support


GOVERNMENT sources insisted yesterday that they would persist with tough budgetary measures, despite a devastating opinion poll result that puts Fianna Fáil at an historic low behind Fine Gael.

"The poll result was not unexpected," said Government Chief Whip Pat Carey.

"It is for us to work together to ensure that the necessary budgetary measures are implemented and that the reasons for them are communicated to the public and understood," he added.

A spokesman for the Green Party said they recognised it was a difficult poll finding for the Government, coming at a time of unprecedented international calamity in financial markets.

"But for the Green Party, it is a solid result in keeping with opinion poll trends since entering government 16 months ago. People recognise we are there to do a specific job on environmental and other issues," he said.

Opposition parties expressed their satisfaction with the poll. "It is a very positive result for Fine Gael," said a party spokesman.

"This is just one opinion poll but it does capture the anger of the public towards the Government and the strong appetite for change that exists.

"The challenge for Fine Gael is to continue to work towards the achievement set out by the party leader of becoming the largest party in the Dáil and forming the next government," he said.

A Labour Party spokesman said that while everybody in politics expected that Fianna Fáil would be down in the poll, nobody had expected such a dramatic fall.

He said that at just 27 per cent it meant that core voters were deserting the Fianna Fáil party.

"We are pleased with the Labour Party showing which reflects the strong performance by the party leader and the parliamentary party in the Dáil," he added.

The Red C poll in yesterday's Sunday Business Postshowed Fianna Fáil down 10 points, and falling seven points behind Fine Gael for the first time ever.

Fianna Fáil support has fallen by 10 percentage points since late September, with just 26 per cent of voters now saying they would vote for the party in a general election.

Just 20 per cent of voters have confidence in the Government's ability to manage the public finances.

Support for Fine Gael and the Labour Party has risen by five points and six points respectively, to 33 per cent and 15 per cent.

The overall state of the parties is Fine Gael 33 per cent (+5); Fianna Fáil 26 per cent (-10); Labour 15 per cent (+6); Green Party 6 per cent (-1); Sinn Féin 10 per cent (+1); PDs 2 per cent (-1) and Independents 8 per cent (no change).

Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who returned from China last night, now has a big challenge on his hands to try and restore battered morale in Fianna Fáil and convince his TDs to persist with the Budget in the face of hostile reaction from a range of vested interests as well as the Opposition.

One senior party figure said the lesson of the past week was that it was going to be a lot more difficult than they had thought to get the public to understand the need for tough decisions.

"People are all for decisive action in theory but not in practice. We have a lot of work to do to try and bring people around to understanding the need for appropriate action."

He added that the Government had to persist with its approach, regardless of the negative public reaction.

The respectable showing of the Greens, in the teeth of the negative reaction to the budget, should steady nerves in the junior Government party.

The party's TDs are not used to dealing with public hostility but the poll, showing that their own support base is holding up well, will come as a big relief.