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Irish Times poll brings bad news for three biggest parties

Inside Politics: Fine Gael is down three points to 30 per cent, Fianna Fáil falls one to 24 per cent and Sinn Féin drops three to 21 per cent

Leo Varadkar’s popularity has fallen by eight points in the latest Irish Times poll. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

There is no consolation in the latest Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll for any of the three biggest parties. They have all slipped in support levels and, as our lead written by Pat Leahy notes this morning, their leaders are not the favourites du jour either.

Leo Varadkar’s popularity has nosedived by eight points, Mary Lou McDonald’s by seven and Micheál Martin’s by four.

In terms of party support Fine Gael is down by three to 30 per cent, Fianna Fáil is at 24 per cent (down one) and Sinn Féin falls three points to 21 per cent.

For a long time, the movement of all the three big players has been going in the same direction – and not one that any of them would particularly want.


Cui bono? Well it’s primarily the Labour Party and all the others, the smaller parties and Independents that are clustered together in one group.

As Leahy points out, the gains have not necessarily gone to Solidarity-PBP, the Greens and the Social Democrats but rather to the independent Independents, the genuinely non-aligned. The last time they were riding so high was in the run-up to the 2016 election.

There are a number of factors that might contribute to an election in late autumn, on the big proviso that Brexit is sorted out by then.

The first is that Brexit will no longer be an excuse. The second is the budget and the definitive end of any confidence-and-supply arrangement. The third will be the prospect of byelections that will need to take place within six months of Dáil seats becoming vacant. Two or three TDs look likely be elected to the European parliament on May 24th - Billy Kelleher, Frances Fitzgerald and Brendan Smyth all look strong contenders.

So why is the public so switched off by the big political parties and their leaders - and why has Leo Varadkar lost his showroom sheen so suddenly?

It’s clear the deal that has kept the Government alive has become strained and a bit artificial and is reaching the end of its lifespan. The national children’s hospital fiasco was damaging to the Government and to Varadkar, who was minister for health when St James’s was selected and didn’t handle the issue brilliantly in recent weeks.

Fianna Fáil met itself coming home when trying to criticise the Government on the mess. It jumped up and down on the airwaves, while its abstention meant under-fire Minister for Health Simon Harris would survive

And what of Sinn Féin? Mary Lou McDonald has been struggling to come out of Gerry Adams’s shadow, and the constantly negative tone of herself and finance spokesman Pearse Doherty might not be convincing voters (she has yet to set out a vision, other than a constant return to the border poll issue).

It’s a great poll for Labour. Once upon a time 6 per cent would have been a disaster for it, but for a party that was nearly wiped out, it’s great news. What will please the party most is that it is at 9 per cent in Dublin and in the rest of Leinster, showing it is slowly beginning to recover some of its old support levels. Brendan Howlin’s approval ratings are also going in the right direction.

Murphy’s Law - day two

Fiach Kelly gives us the second instalment of the fascinating internal paper from the Socialist Party on its efforts to unite and re-educate the proletariat.

Today it is the party’s obsession with Sinn Féin, which it sees as its main rival to the left and the party that challenges it on winning the support of the working classes.

Paul Murphy again quotes from just about every socialist Bible including Marx, Trotsky and the Communists. Kelly reports he advocates a united front with the like of Sinn Féin, where the distinction between it and Sinn Féin can easily be pointed out.

“Mr Murphy cites a definition from the ‘Executive Committee of the Communist International Theses on the United Front’,” Kelly reports.

By this definition, the tactic is, Murphy says, “nothing other than the proposal made by the Communists to all workers, whether they are members of other parties or groups or of none, to fight alongside them, to defend the elementary and vital interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie.

“Every action for even the smallest demand is a source of revolutionary education, because the experience of combat will convince the working people of the necessity of the revolution, and will demonstrate the meaning of Communism to them.” Murphy says this can be “applied to today’s situation to win over workers looking towards other organisations”.

He also cites Trotsky in expanding his argument, adding: “Trotsky made it clear that even in a specific united front, there was a need for clear differentiation from other forces.”

And toward the end of the piece, we are afforded a classic Paul Murphy description of Sinn Féin that does not spare the timber: “The comrades . . . respond to my description of Sinn Féin as a nationalist, pro-capitalist party saying the following: ‘Of course they are ‘nationalist, pro-capitalist party’’, the reality is that Sinn Féin are a bourgeois nationalist party - but of fundamental importance to any political description of Sinn Féin is that they are a sectarian party. A party that currently plays a sectarian role in the North - whose armed wing in the past waged an individual terrorist armed struggle, that was overtly sectarian and at times directly targeted working class Protestants.”

Best reads

Pat Leahy, in his analysis, says this is the worst poll for Leo Varadkar since he became Taoiseach.

Our report previewing today's appearance by Robert Watt, secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure, at the Public Accounts Committee.

Stephen Collins compares the Brexit negotiations to a similar Anglo-Irish process from more than 100 years.

Ronan McGreevy does the impossible and gives a history of Ireland from Henry VIII to the present day - 800 years in a little over 800 words!

Miriam Lord on yesterday's unexpected early finish for the Brexit Bill, including Shane Ross's very cruel comparison of Imelda Munster to her Sinn Féin colleagues: "They were like thoroughbreds in a horse race, and you came in as you normally do, and you're like a donkey in the last race, at the last fence. You upset the whole apple cart."

An excellent interview with Nigel Dodds, DUP's 'soft cop' by Gerry Moriarty.



The Dáil schedule looks particularly threadbare this morning, and there is a good reason for it. Normal business for the week was cleared to accommodate the massive Brexit Omnibus Bill. And lo and behold, it was all over way ahead of schedule. The Dáil rose just after three yesterday, the earliest on a Wednesday in a long, long time. And six hours were allotted to the Bill today. So the upshot is that instead of adjourning after 10pm, the Dáil will rise just after 3pm.

9.30am: Private Members’ Business: Motion re Drugs Taskforce.

11.30am: Parliamentary Questions to Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys.

1pm: Leaders’ Questions.

1.32pm: Weekly divisions.

2.55pm: Topical Issues.

3.15pm: Dáil adjourns.


10.30am: Commencement.

11.30am: Order of Business.

1.30am: Ráitis maidir le Seachtain na Gaeilge.

2.30pm: Statements on the National Children’s Hospital: (Department of Health)

3.30pm: Seanad adjourns.


9am: Committee of Public Accounts: Oversight and Implementation of Capital Projects with Robert Watt of the Department of Public Expenditure.

10am: Finance Committee looking at estimates for OPW with Kevin “Boxer” Moran, Minister of State at the Department for OPW.

2.30pm: Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach: Engagement on the role of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the delivery of the national children’s hospital

Robert Watt is very popular. This is his second appearance of the day before an Oireachtas committee.