Fine Gael face poll, charisma challenges
Fine Gael face poll, charisma challenges

Support for Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fail party has risen sharply in the weeks following a giveaway budget, according to the findings of the latest polls.

However, no clear potential government -- neither the current Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat coalition nor a Fine Gael-led alternative -- would be in a position to take power if a general election were held now.

Support for Fine Gael, the main opposition l party has fallen since the last poll in early December and the party has been hardest hit among those most likely to vote, according to today’s survey, which was conducted last week among over 1,000 voters nationwide.

Support for Sinn Féin, Labour, independents and the Progressive Democrats has remained mostly static, while the Green Party’s share of the vote has risen by two points, according to latest Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post.

For Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, the poll shows the erosion of steady gains made during last year. For Fianna Fail, the poll brings a revival after a mid-2005 slump, which previous polls showed was closely related to concerns about ‘‘rip-off Ireland’’, crystallised by the public reaction to television programmes fronted by Eddie Hobbs last summer.

Nonetheless, at 37 per cent, Fianna Fail is still almost five points behind its performance at the 2002 general election, and were the level of support reproduced at the next election, Bertie Ahern would be facing the loss of about 15 seats. In that event, neither Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats nor Fine Gael and Labour would be able to form a government alone, and the focus would switch to Sinn Féin and the smaller parties.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny admitted he does not have “buckets of charisma” but claimed this was just one of a number of personality traits required by a leader of a political party.

Mr Kenny made his comments to radio DJ Ray D’Arcy, who before Christmas claimed that Mr Kenny had the look of a boiled potato that had been in a fridge for a number of days.

Yesterday Mr Kenny told D’Arcy he took no offence whatsoever at his remarks.

“I wouldn’t say I have buckets of charisma to dish around, but I started from a very low base having been elected leader of the Fine Gael party and I understand the scale of the challenge that’s up ahead,” Mr Kenny said. “And you won’t do that by charisma alone. Obviously it does require strong personality and a lot of energy.”

During the interview Mr Kenny denied that Fine Gael had no alternative policies. He said the party had an election pact with Labour, and the parties were committed to producing an agreed election agenda.

Asked when this would be produced, he refused to give a date.

“We’ll produce it when we think it’s right,” he said.

He acknowledged that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had become a celebrity and was in demand for various openings in his own right. However, he criticised him for officiating at the opening of pubs.

“I don’t open public houses myself. I think it gives a wrong impression of politics and drink and all that sort of culture. But remember the man has been Taoiseach for 10 years. I think it’s too long. The people will judge in due course.”

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