Ipsos MRBI poll: shot in the arm for Varadkar

Media focus on Taoiseach battling for Ireland in Brexit talks appears to have helped overcome any damage caused by garda controversy

 

The latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll confounds conventional wisdom which held that the Government suffered a serious setback over its handling of the controversy that led to the resignation of Frances Fitzgerald from the Cabinet.

The dramatic jump in support for Fine Gael and the rise in the satisfaction rating for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicates that the Government’s handling of the recent difficulties in the Department of Justice has not done it any political harm. The fact that the poll was taken on Monday and Tuesday of this week with huge media concentration on the role of the Taoiseach battling for Ireland in the Brexit negotiations undoubtedly helped to overcome any damage caused by the continuing Garda controversy.

With 36 per cent support, Fine Gael is now at its highest rating for more than six years while satisfaction with the Government is at its highest in almost a decade. The Taoiseach’s own satisfaction rating is also up to a very respectable 53 per cent, a rating achieved only once in 15 years by his predecessor Enda Kenny, just after the 2011 general election.

Fianna Fáil has dropped four points but party leader Micheál Martin is up six points, indicating that his standing has improved as a result of the approach he took to the Fitzgerald issue and the crisis over Brexit. Sinn Féin support has remained solid since the last Irish Times poll, while the Independents have lost a little ground. The news is disappointing for the Labour Party which remains stuck on just 4 per cent despite the running made by the party in relation to Fitzgerald’s difficulties, particularly Alan Kelly who tabled Dáil questions with dogged determination.

The Green Party will be pleased that it is now on 3 per cent nationally and even better news is that the party is on 9 per cent in Dublin, ahead of the Labour Party and not all that far behind Fianna Fáil. Dublin remains the big weak spot for Fianna Fáil and it will need a significant improvement in the capital if it is to achieve its ambition of becoming the biggest party at the next election.

The poll cannot be taken as a guide to what would have happened if a general election had been called for later this month as a result of the Fitzgerald affair. Rather it may serve as a warning to all the parties that they need to be very careful about pushing the Dáil over the political precipice.

Fine Gael has probably benefited because an election was avoided, while the poll is a reminder to Fianna Fáil that there is no guarantee it is going to gain seats in an early election. The bottom line is that the poll is a shot in the arm for Leo Varadkar who for the moment, at least, is the new Teflon Taoiseach. It will confirm Fine Gael TDs in the view that they made the right decision in the leadership election.

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