Labour is biggest party in State for first time - poll


The Labour Party has become the biggest party in the State for the first time in its history, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

Fianna Fail has dropped back to the record low it reached last September while the standing of the Government and Taoiseach has fallen sharply over the past six months.

There is also bad news for Fine Gael with the party dropping to its lowest rating in two years and leader Enda Kenny falling back in terms of satisfaction rating.

When people were asked who they would vote for if there were a general election tomorrow, the adjusted figures for party support, compared with the previous 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).

The poll was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.

Most of the research was conducted before the reports of the two banking inquiries were made public but after the controversy about the expenses claimed by Fianna Fáil Senator Ivor Callely.

Just 12 per cent of voters are satisfied with the way the Government is doing its job (down seven points) while 83 per cent are dissatisfied (up seven points).

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

The surge in Labour support over the past six months is the outstanding feature of the poll and it gives credence to Mr Gilmore’s claim to be regarded as a realistic candidate for the Taoiseach’s office at the next


The significant drop in the Fianna Fáil vote will come as a deep disappointment to the party. It marks a reversal of the trend shown in the last poll which appeared to indicate a modest recovery in the party’s

fortunes after it had taken a series of difficult decisions in the second half of last year.

The Government’s satisfaction has dropped to just 12 per cent while Mr Cowen’s rating is down to 18 per cent.

Responding to the results of the poll tonight, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the Government, having been democratically elected, still had a term to complete and that this would happen so long as its majority remained in the Dáil.

"I won't walk away from my responsibilities," Mr Cowen said on RTÉ Primetime.

He said people could decide on the Government's performance at the end of its term and that he hoped the tough decisions taken will have returned the economy to growth by that time.

Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton acknowledged the poll results were disappointing and declined to answer when asked as to whether or not he had full confidence in Mr Kenny's leadership qualities.

Mr Bruton said he was just as much in the dock as Mr Kenny.