Ministers seek to play down significance of poll result showing rise in support for Sinn Féin

Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien says country is three-and-a-half years away from an election

Senior Government Ministers have sought to play down the significance of poll results showing a rise in support for Sinn Féin that puts the main Opposition party 15 points ahead of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Ministers highlighted how there are more than three years before the next General Election is due to take place as they responded to the results of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

According to the poll, Sinn Féin now stands at 35 per cent, up three points on the last survey. Fianna Fáil remains on 20 per cent and Fine Gael is also on 20 per cent, down two points.

The Coalition is taking some solace in a finding that 57 per cent of those surveyed still think the Government is doing a good job in its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, though this marks a decline from 74 per cent when a similar question was asked in October.


Fianna Fáil Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said: "A poll's, a poll". He added: "I don't really pay too much heed to it."

Mr O’Brien said: “We’re about three-and-a-half years away from an election.”

Mr O’Brien contended that the Government is “performing well” and said: “When you look within the polling data, it is seen that we’re managing things well through the through the pandemic”.

He said Fianna Fáil’s position was “stable”.

Mr O’Brien added: “We’re not in campaigning mode as the main Opposition party continually seem to be in campaigning mode. That’s fine.

“We’ve got to get on with running the country.”

Fine Gael Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the poll was "disappointing" but insisted the findings were unreliable in terms of predicting an electoral outcome given that it was three years out from the next likely General Election.

“There’s no point politicians saying they’re not interested in polls, we all pay attention to them,” he said, adding that there were some positives including how the Government has handled the pandemic.

Also speaking on Newstalk Radio, his party colleague Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe acknowledged a "clear" trend in Sinn Féin support in recent polls.

“But it has to be a catalyst for us continuing to do what we can to get our country through Covid and to respond back to where we are on housing and where we are going to be on health,” he said.

Mr Donohoe said the Government could fix economic issues before the next election, citing increased employment since the pandemic threat of 18 months ago.

Dublin Bay North Fianna Fáil TD Seán Haughey, who was attending the opening of a new road on Dublin’s northside with Mr O’Brien on Friday, said the poll was “one snapshot in time”.

He added that Fianna Fáil’s position has stabilised but said of the poll results that “in one way it’s not surprising” as “we’re living in very difficult times and people are going through difficult issues”.

Mr Haughey said his party is “focused on governing” and dealing with the pandemic and the housing crisis.

Asked if Fianna Fáil could ever return to the kind of support levels it enjoyed under his father, the late former taoiseach Charles Haughey, he said: "Nobody can predict what happens in politics."

He said Fianna Fáil “certainly has work to do as regards organisation and policies. That work is continuing, but we’re living in a multi-party system. The days of really big political parties are probably a thing of the past.”

He said Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin his “full support” and while there had been rumblings about the leadership earlier this year they had “fizzled out”.

Mr Haughey also said: “The work of Government is just too important for Fianna Fáil to be navel gazing.”

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane argued that the poll shows that “the seismic shift in Irish politics continues”.

He claimed that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have “run out of ideas and solutions” and that “more and more people want change in policies and a change in Government”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times