Sinn Féin steady in poll; FF moves up
Sinn Féin steady in poll; FF moves up

Support for Sinn Féin in the 26 Counties has remained stable despite unprecedented attacks by rival political parties and negative publicity in the mainstream media.

A poll published today has indicated a marginal loss in support for Sinn Féin while support for the coalition government has picked up following December’s “spend and spend” budget.

Support for the government, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his Fianna Fail party are now at their highest since the 2002 general election.

Support for Sinn Féin has fallen just one point since October to 11 per cent. Approval of the performance of Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin leader among all poll respondents is down from 51 per cent to 42 per cent.

This comes despite strident attacks by the leadership of the coalition parties, linking Mr Adams and the Sinn Féin leadership to criminality in general, and the pre-Christmas Northern Bank robbery in particular.

The state of the parties is: Fianna Fail 38 per cent, up three percentage points since the last such poll last October; Fine Gael 22 per cent, down two points; Labour 13 per cent, unchanged; Sinn Féin 11 per cent, down one point; Progressive Democrats 4 per cent, up one; Green Party 4 per cent, unchanged; and others 8 per cent, down two.

Satisfaction with the Government has risen to 52 per cent, up nine percentage points since the last poll in October. Forty per cent are dissatisfied, down nine points, and an unchanged 8 per cent have no opinion.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Tanaiste Mary Harney, described Sinn Féin’s party support as ‘remarkable’.

Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin said that the 1% drop in its popularity would be short-lived.

“At the end of the day, opinion polls play their role, but the most important opinion poll will be the May elections here in the North,” he said.

“Gerry Adams’ leadership, particularly his role in the peace process, is one that is widely recognised within the electorate.”

Tony Blair and his British Labour Party are comfortably ahead in the polls of the ailing Conservatie Party in Britain and are likely to be returned to Westminster with another large majority.

Local government elections in the North have been brought forward to May 5 - boosting speculation that this will also become the date for the British general election.

  • A former Sinn Féin councillor in south Down may run against former party colleague Caitriona Ruane in the Westminster election.

    Independent councillor Martin Cunningham, who left the party last year following an internal dispute, said he was considering putting himself forward as a candidate for the seat currently held by the SDLP’s Eddie McGrady MP.

    “A lot of people have asked me to consider standing for the election as an independent republican and I have agreed to think about it,” said Mr Cunningham.

    “I owe it to the people who voted for me in the last local government elections and I will definitely be standing as a councillor for the Newry and Mourne District Council.

    “I am not ruling it out but it is difficult to run for an election when you do not have a political party behind you.”

  • West Tyrone independent Kieran Deeny is set to stand in the Westminster election.

    The Carrickmore GP was elected to the suspended Belfast Assembly in 2003, topping the poll on the single issue of the future of acute hospital services in Omagh.

    He has called a press conference for Monday, at which he is to announce his intention to contest West Tyrone.

    He is also expected to call on other candidates in the race to step aside, leaving him in a straight fight with sitting MP Pat Doherty of Sinn Féin.

  • The Ulster Unionist Party MP Martin Smyth has said that he will not be standing at the next election.

    The high-profile anti-Agreement MP for South Belfast told local party members of his decision on Thursday night.

    Mr Smyth, 73, said he had decided to stand down to spend more time with his wife Kathleen, who has been ill.

    His successor will be selected on 24 February. The frontrunner is Michael McGimpsey, a pro-Agreement, former Stormont minister.

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