Pressure on Ahern after poll drop
Pressure on Ahern after poll drop

Fianna Fail has suffered a large drop in support since the general election in May and satisfaction with the party leader and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is also down significantly.

One of the big surprises in the poll is that the Tanaiste and Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, has a higher satisfaction rating than the Taoiseach and is more popular than any of the party leaders.

Politicial pundits, including a number of Fianna Fail’s own parliamentarians, are beginning to predict that Ahern will hand the baton of power over to Cowen within a year.

The large opposition Fine Gael party has narrowed the gap with Fianna Fail to just two percentage points, the closest the two parties have been for more than 20 years.

The adjusted figures for party support compared with the election outcome are: Fianna Fail, 33 per cent (down nine points); Fine Gael, 31 per cent (up four points); Labour, 15 per cent (up five points); Sinn Féin, 7 per cent (no change); Green Party, 5 per cent (no change); PDs, 2 per cent (down one point); and Independents/others, 7 per cent (no change).

The poll revealed that early three-quarters of voters do not believe that Bertie Ahern gave the full picture about his personal finances to the Mahon tribunal into political corruption in September, while more people believe the whole episode is now a serious political issue.

The survey waws carried out before the latest scandal to hit the Ahern government. It has emerged this week that incompetence at the Department of Health lies behind the failure of breast cancer scans in Portlaoise Hospital in the Irish midlands. A total of eight women who underwent mammograms iat the hospital in the past four years have already learned that they were wrongly given the all-clear for the disease.

This is despite the Minister for Health Mary Harney being told by a senior doctor that radiological services at the Midland Regional Hospital were a “shambles” and were being provided “by people who have no expertise in this area”.

Meanwhile, support for a treaty designed to reform the European Union has halved over the past two years.

Just 25 per cent of people polled say they will vote Yes to the Treaty, agreed in Lisbon last month, while 13 per cent intend to vote No and a massive 62 per cent say they don’t know or have no opinion.

Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald said theree has been no broad political debate with the Irish people on the future of Europe.

“Government has sought to bamboozle or bore citizens into submission when it comes to matters on Europe,” she said.

Sinn Féin’s own support has held firm since the election, according to the poll, but party President Gerry Adams has vowed to grow the party in the South despite a setback in the May election.

Speaking at an internal Belfast party conference on Sunday, Mr Adams said that republicans were looking forward to potentially the most rewarding phase of their struggle. Commenting on the major work which is ongoing in rebuilding and expanding the party in the south, Mr. Adams said:

“Many will remember the election of April 1992 when we lost the west Belfast seat. That too was a disappointment. Our enemies thought it was a fatal blow - that they had us on the run. Well, they didn’t. We immediately got down to the business of winning the seat back. Of building republicanism. Of planning and strategising and of looking forward. That’s the lesson of that time. And we have a lot to build on in the time ahead.

“The party’s vote in the 26 counties went up overall and we came very close to taking a number of extra seats. And over the summer Pearse Doherty from Donegal was elected as Sinn Féin’s first Senator. Since the election the party has been meeting locally and nationally, reviewing what happened, and we are putting a plan in place to get us back on track. This will see two major party conferences take place before the end of the year.

“But these are only part of the way forward. We have to build on that; build on our republican roots and policies; shape them to take account of the political realities of Ireland today, and move forward confidently. We have to grasp the major political opportunities which are now open to us.”

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