Fianna Fáil says it’s possible to overtake Fine Gael as largest party

‘The public likes an underdog,’ a senior FF spokesman says

Fianna Fáil election candidates (L to R) Darragh O’Brien, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin,Timmy Dooley and  Lorraine Clifford Lee. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Fianna Fáil election candidates (L to R) Darragh O’Brien, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin,Timmy Dooley and Lorraine Clifford Lee. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

It is possible Fianna Fáil could overtake its traditional rival Fine Gael in the general election on Friday, one of the party’s most senior figures has said.

Finance spokesman Michael McGrath said on Tuesday that he was not ruling out the possibility of Fianna Fáil bridging the gap between it and Fine Gael over the last three days of the campaign.

“The public likes an underdog,” Mr McGrath said, who added that Fianna Fáil had momentum behind it.

“It is not outside the bounds of possibility.”

The latest Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll showed support levels for Fianna Fáil at 23 per cent, some five percentage points behind Fine Gael.

However, the gap between both parties has considerably narrowed over the course of the election campaign.

Mr McGrath was speaking at a press conference where he and public expenditure spokesman outlined the party’s pension policy.

Asked about the possibility of a coalition with Fine Gael, or Fianna Fáil supporting a minority government, both declined to brook the question.

However, they rejected any suggestion of a rotating taoiseach.

Mr Fleming said the party had rejected any coalition with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin but accepted that no single party government could emerge from the election.

He mentioned the Social Democrats, Renua Ireland and the Labour Party as possible partners in a Fianna Fáil-led government.

On pension policy, Mr McGrath said Fianna Fáil would introduce a referendum within a year of being elected to ensure that a raid on people’s private pension funds could never happen again.

He claimed the pension levy had done more damage to the private pensions system than at any other time.

“Pensioners were very seriously impacted by pension levy which involved taking €2.5 billion in savings from private pension funds.”

Fianna Fáil was committed to retaining tax relief at the marginal rate of 40 per cent, he said.

To ensure a higher take-up of pensions, it would also introduce an auto-enrolment scheme for private sector workers.

The party has also a new policy proposing a pension tracing service to allow people gather the funds from different employment they have held to be held in one pension fund.

“People will go through a multiple of jobs in their careers. All of their pension contributions will be spread across a number of pension funds and will not be pulled together,” he said.

“In government we will establish a national tracing register to allow people trace and coordinate their different funds into one.”