Opinion polls never get Fianna Fáil’s vote share right, party claims

Thomas Byrne says SF’s budget ‘fancy fairytale’ and teacher pay inequality ‘needs to end’

It is well over a decade since polls came even close to predicting Fianna Fáil's vote share or the number of seats it received in general elections, the party's education spokesman Thomas Byrne has claimed.

As The Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI poll showed Sinn Féin surging ahead of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Mr Byrne said that over the last number of years there had been over 30 polls where the party had been behind Sinn Féin.

“Polls tend to get us wrong completely. They also tend to get Sinn Féin wrong. The Meath-East said that in the last number of weeks there had been a massive focus on politics and process. But they wanted to see a debate “on all of our policies and plans” and for Sinn Féin’s proposals to be subject to the same scrutiny as other parties.

Hitting out at Sinn Féin he said they proposed €1.3 billion for new capital expenditure but were promising trains and Luases to every constituency “and one of those projects the Derry/Sligo almost costs that amount alone”.


He and party equality spokeswoman Fiona O’Loughlin were speaking at their election headquarters about public services and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland strike about pay inequality for new entrants.

Asked if the party was worried about alienating Sinn Féin supporters and losing their vote transfers Mr Byrne deflected and said “we are concentrating on setting forth the vision we have, a positive vision of change that can happen” and “to give people a shot at life”.

The party’s proposals were costed and realistic. “We’re not promising a train in every town.”

But he said there was “nothing that anyone has asked for to be available free that Sinn Féin hasn’t promised”.

But Sinn Féin attack when challenged on their manifesto and its costs, he claimed.

Ms O’Loughlin said the Sinn Féin manifesto was costed at €21 billion, almost twice what was available. “Their policies make for basically fancy fairytale.”

Ms O’Loughlin, a Kildare South TD, said the party “will not be reconsidering our position” on ruling out coalition with Sinn Féin.

“We’ve set out our stall on no government with Sinn Féin,” she said.

Speaking about the teachers’ strike, Mr Byrne said it showed how the Government’s fundamental approach to the issue of teachers, school secretaries and all sorts of categories of public servants had been for “the conflicts and division to fester until they develop into open disputes as we see here today”.

Fianna Fáil, he said, “has been utterly consistent in saying that pay inequality in the education sector is unfair and needs to end” and they had given a clear commitment to establish an agreed pathway for restoring pay equality starting with pay talks this year.

Ms O’Loughlin said the party was committed to reducing the pupil teacher ratio to 20:1 over a five-year period.

Asked about the funding for pay restoration Mr Byrne said no government set out its stall publicly on pay talks with trade unions before an election. He said they had left “more than sufficient money to deal with this” and get to full equalisation. There was €1.2 billion for public pay, but when pressed declined to state the level of pay equalisation and would not “engage over the airwaves on public sector pay negotiations”.

He added that Fianna Fáil had the greatest chance of replacing Fine Gael in government and “if you want Fine Gael out of government then you need to vote Fianna Fáil. If you want real change then we in Fianna Fáil are determined to deliver that for you in a Fianna Fáil-led government.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times