Coveney downplays poll showing 75% want change of government

Tánaiste says Taoiseach will show ‘command of his brief’ and passion for country in TV debate

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring are pictured in Golden, Co Tipperary with Fine Gael candidates Garret Ahearn (left) and Mary Newman Julian (right).

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring are pictured in Golden, Co Tipperary with Fine Gael candidates Garret Ahearn (left) and Mary Newman Julian (right).


Tánaiste Simon Coveney has played down an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll suggesting that three quarters of voters want a change of government, and predicted that support for Fine Gael will grow as polling day draws closer.

The poll found that 38 per cent of voters believe the Fine Gael-Independent minority Government has not done enough to be returned, a further 37per cent said it was time for a radical change of direction and 20 per cent said the administration deserves more time.

Mr Coveney acknowledged there had been some difficult debates on crime, homelessness and health in the campaign so far but said he expected the focus to shift back to the economy, on which he said Fine Gael had a good record.

“As this campaign moves on I believe people will focus on the key issue of who do you trust to take the country forward. When you look at the record of the last Fianna Fáil-led government, 356,000 people lost their jobs,” he said.

“You look at the record of Fine Gael in terms of fixing and rebuilding a strong economy - yes, we have more to do on health and housing but what party can actually maintain the economic growth we have seen in the last four years?

“That growth has been created by Fine Gael policy in order to pay for all this social change and improve public services and I believe that as people focus on that key issue, they will start to look to Fine Gael again in bigger numbers.”

Mr Coveney was speaking on Wednesday while he and Cabinet colleague Michael Ring were canvassing with Fine Gael’s candidates in Tipperary, Garret Ahearn and Mary Newman Julian. The party does not have a TD in the constituency.

‘In command’

When asked if he thought Fine Gael would be performing better in the polls if he was leading the party rather than Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mr Coveney jumped to the defence of his colleague.

“I think Leo is doing a great job, he’s got an important debate tonight and I think people will see a Taoiseach in command of his brief and totally on top of the detail but also passionate about his responsibility as leader of this country,” he said.

“He’s only been Taoiseach for two years, people talk about Fine Gael being in government for some time but Leo Varadkar’s leadership is only two years old- he’s new to the job but he’s done an extraordinary amount of work since then.”

The Tánaiste dismissed suggestions that a poor showing by Mr Varadkar in the Virgin TV debate could prove disastrous for Fine Gael.

He said Fianna Fáil was incapable of coming up with the sort of solutions that Fine Gael was committed to bringing forward to address the challenges in crime, health, housing and homelessness.

Asked about comments by former coalition partner and Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who said Fine Gael’s legacy in office was “almost as toxic” as Fianna Fáil’s, Mr Coveney suggested the Wexford TD was “playing politics”.

“Our legacy over the last nine years was very much part of Brendan Howlin’s legacy. He was minister for public expenditure when Fine Gael and Labour rebuilt this country after Fianna Fáil devastated it and drove us off a cliff,” he said.

“It was the partnership between Fine Gael and Labour which laid the foundations to provide the kind of resources that we are now committing to broadband, to housing, to health care reform and all of the other things.”