Sinn Féin has surged into first place in the general election race, with a quarter of all likely voters now saying they intend to vote for the party, according to the final Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll of the campaign.
The poll puts Fine Gael back in third place at 20 per cent, behind Fianna Fáil on 23 per cent and Sinn Féin on 25 per cent.
The findings of the poll, which was taken on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week, will shock the Government party and suggest that Ireland is on the brink of an historic general election result on Saturday.
However, Fianna Fáil remains the most popular choice for government, with more voters expressing a preference for a coalition government involving that party than any other, while Sinn Féin is the party that the highest number of voters do not want to see in government.
In addition, Sinn Féin is limited by running by running just 42 candidates in 38 constituencies and is unlikely – even on these figures – to be the largest party in the next Dáil.
But the findings will add further momentum to Sinn Féin’s campaign ahead of Tuesday’s final televised leaders’ debate, to which RTÉ on Monday invited party leader Mary Lou McDonald in a u-turn prompted by the party’s unprecedented run in the opinion polls.
The state of the parties, when undecided voters and those unlikely to vote are excluded, is as follows: Sinn Féin 25 per cent (up four), Fianna Fáil 23 per cent (down two), Fine Gael 20 per cent (down three), Greens 8 per cent (no change), Labour 4 per cent (down one) and Independents and small parties 20 per cent (up two). The comparison is with the most recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll at the beginning of the election campaign in mid-January.
Among the Independents and smaller parties, the breakdown shows a number of groups all within the margin of error of each other.
Solidarity-People Before Profit is at 2 per cent (no change), the Social Democrats is at 2 per cent (no change), Independents4Change is at 1 per cent (no change), the Independent Alliance is at less than 1 per cent (no change), Aontú is at 1 per cent, non-party Independents are on 10 per cent (no change) and other groups and parties are on 3 per cent (no change).
The survey was conducted face to face among 1,200 adults at 120 locations in every constituency. The accuracy level is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.
Satisfaction with the Government has slumped again, from 27 per cent at the beginning of the campaign to 21 per cent today. Approval for both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has also fallen, with Mr Martin's rating falling by three points to 30 per cent and Mr Varadkar's by five points to 30 per cent.
Mr Martin remains narrowly the favourite choice to be the next taoiseach at 24 per cent, with Mr Varadkar at 23 per cent and Ms McDonald at 20 per cent.
Mr Martin enjoys a more significant advantage, however, when it comes to the choice of taoiseach. A coalition of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and Labour is narrowly favoured as the most popular option for government, with 17 per cent of voters saying they would like to see it forming the next government.
This is ahead of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin (15 per cent), Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael (14 per cent), Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens (14 per cent) and a Fine Gael-Sinn Féin combination, favoured by just 7 per cent of voters.
Taken together, these figures show that 46 per cent of voters favour a coalition involving Fianna Fáil – ahead of Fine Gael on 35 per cent and Sinn Féin on 22 per cent, among the options offered.