Squeeze on smaller parties makes a Sinn Féin-led government of the left less likely

Inside Politics: With almost a quarter of people yet to make up their minds, there is much to play for

Illustration: Paul Scott

Just over two weeks ago Tánaiste Micheál Martin was once again outlining his views on the “huge incompatibility” between his party, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin when the question of a future coalition was posed.

Enterprise culture, climate and Europe as well as Northern Ireland legacy issues were identified as the major points of difference.

Mr Martin also chided the media, saying it needs to “stop cheerleading” Sinn Féin along as if a victory for the rival party in the next election is a “slam dunk”, highlighting how Irish politics is “very fragmented” and “the options are wide open”.

As our Political Editor Pat Leahy reports today, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos poll shows how Sinn Féin has extended its lead over the other ‘big three’ parties – Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – and is up three points to 34 per cent.


Fianna Fáil is down one point to 20 per cent and there is no change in Fine Gael’s support levels at 18 per cent.

The other current Coalition partner, the Green Party, is down one point to 3 per cent.

Leahy writes that Sinn Féin “remains on course to be comfortably the largest party in the next Dáil”.

This does not mean that it is a “slam dunk” that Sinn Féin will form part of the next Government but nor is it “cheerleading”.

After all, Sinn Féin has been consistently above 30 per cent in the series of Irish Times/Ipsos polls for more than two years.

Much can happen, of course, over the next as many as 18 months until the next election must happen.

Today’s poll would again suggest, as has been clear for some time, that the most straightforward mathematical – if not political – route to forming the next Government would be a Sinn Féin/Fianna Fáil coalition.

In his analysis, Leahy looks at the various hypothetical routes to power – at least 88 seats in the next Dáil - thrown up by the poll.

An overall majority for Sinn Féin is still “probably in the realms of fantasy” but the squeeze on smaller parties makes a Sinn Féin-led government of the left even less likely after this poll.

Fine Gael has ruled out a coalition with Sinn Féin and this leaves Fianna Fáil.

It is not yet clear whether Fianna Fáil will have an alternative route to power, but on the current poll numbers a return of the current Coalition line-up seems unlikely, with other parties or Independents also set to be needed to make up the numbers.

Leahy writes that “if that route doesn’t work for Fianna Fáil, it could be faced with the question of whether it wants to enter coalition negotiations with Sinn Féin – or face another general election. It increasingly looks like there are uncomfortable choices ahead for Micheál Martin and his party.”

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It is worth noting that undecided voters (excluded from the above numbers) were at 23 per cent, unchanged from the last poll in June.

With almost a quarter of people yet to make up their minds, there is much still to play for ahead of the next election.

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Proceedings start in the Dáil with Mr Martin taking parliamentary questions on his foreign affairs brief.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan is up next to be quizzed by TDs at 10.30am.

Leaders’ Questions is at noon.

Government Business from 1.44pm onwards includes debate on the Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Agency Bill 2023.

TDs will have a chance to raise ‘Topical Issues’ at 6pm.

The Dáil will debate a Labour Party Private Members’ Bill on Labour Exploitation and Trafficking at 6.48pm.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to address the Seanad at 10.30am.

The National Asset Management Agency (Nama) is before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from 9.30am.

The Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement will hear from employers’ group Ibec on the topic of the all-island economy, also at 9.30am.

Representatives of Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) will be quizzed by the Committee on Health on the issues relating to spinal surgery at Temple Street children’s hospital at 1.30pm.

The full Dáil, Seanad and Committee schedules can be found here, here and here.