A socialist is likely to become the next 26-County Taoiseach according to a new poll, which shows a further decline in support for the Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition.
The leader of the Labour Party, Eamon Gilmore, is the clear favourite with 36pc nominating him for the job compared to just 19pc for Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and 11pc for Fianna Fail leader and current Taoiseach, Brian Cowen.
The Labour Party also has the support of more than one third of the electorate according to an opinion poll released by TV3.
In terms of party support, compared to the last Millward Brown Lansdowne poll in February, support for Fianna Fail is down 5% to 22%; Fine Gael is down 4% to 30%; Labour up 16% to 35%.
Personal satisfaction ratings see Mr Cowen down 4% to 18%, Enda Kenny fall 2% to 24% and Eamon Gilmore up 4% to 58%. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams is the second most popular political leader, with a satisfaction rating of 30%.
The coalition government now has the approval of just 11% of voters.
However, Fianna Fail supporters were said to be relieved that the party’s popularity had not declined further in the wake of their leader’s now-infamous slurred morning radio interview following a late night drinking session.
Eamon Gilmore said today [Friday] that Labour is on target to be the largest political party in the country after the next general election.
“We believe the people of this country are looking for change,” he said. “I believe the change the people of this country are looking for is away from the traditional established order of FF and FG.”
Earlier this week, he said he believed the events surrounding the Taoiseach’s controversial radio interview had increased the likelihood of an early dissolution of the Dail.
“I think there is a momentum building up in the country; it has been building for some time. The strategy that Fianna Fail appeared to have adopted - to sit tight, serve out the time, hope that things would turn around, and that there would be an electoral consequence of that - I think the public are just intolerant of that and are not prepared to allow that to happen.
“People want the Government out of office, and what we’re seeing over the last couple of days is clearly that Fianna Fail TDs, particularly backbenchers, are getting that message.”
The Dail consists of 166 seats, including the ceann comhairle [speaker] who is automatically re-elected.
“If we won 65 seats, that leaves 100 for everybody else, and it would make Labour the largest party in the Dail,” Mr Gilmore said.
“That’s the basis on which we’re contesting this election; is to be the largest party and to lead the next government.”
The Government’s stability was further threatened today by independent TD Noel Grealish, who has decided to withdraw his support.
The move by the former Progressive Democrats TD, who has backed the Fianna Fail-Green Party Coalition since 2007, followed a meeting with HSE West management yesterday at which the scale of health cuts for the western region were outlined.
“I will not be supporting this Government from next Wednesday onwards until I’m assured that there will be an adequate service and that patient safety will be protected at all costs,” he said.
Brian Cowen today refused to reconsider the health cuts. He has also indicated he will go ahead with three by-elections in the Spring of next year, a move that could finally end his government’s slim working majority in the Dublin parliament.
His government’s budget difficulties also increased as new figures showed the economy contracted in the second quarter of the year and that growth in the first quarter was less than previously estimated.
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan denied the economy was sliding into a double-dip recession and insisted the figures indicated the economy was stabilising.
However, he conceded that the lack of growth posed “serious challenges” in the forthcoming December budget.
Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan said the figures showed that the Government’s economic policies were failing and called for a stimulus package to save and create jobs.
“The failure by the Government to make an investment in the State, coupled with their ruthless regime of austerity and cutbacks” was responsible for the economic decline, he said.
“The Irish economy may have technically emerged from recession in the first quarter of the year but today’s figures underscore the reality that there can be no sustainable economic growth when there is still an absence of jobs.”