Taoiseach Enda Kenny has responded to Sinn Féin’s surge in the latest Irish Times/Ispos MRBI poll by rubbishing the party’s promises as “unachievable”.
Sinn Féin is neck-and-neck with Fine Gael in popular support for the first time, according to the poll. Both parties are on 24 per cent.
The poll also shows Labour has benefited from a modest bounce since the summer Cabinet reshuffle with new Tánaiste Joan Burton now the most popular party leader.
When people were asked who they would vote for if an election were held tomorrow, party support – when undecideds are excluded – compared with the last Irish Times poll in May was: Fine Gael, 24 per cent (no change); Labour, 9 per cent (up two points); Fianna Fáil, 20 per cent (down five points); Sinn Féin, 24 per cent (up four points); and Independents/ Others, 23 per cent (down one point).
Questioned by reporters in Westport, Co Mayo, about the results, Mr Kenny said he never comments on opinion polls.
However, when pressed about comments this morning by Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton that support was beginning to drift away from the Government, Mr Kenny pointed out that Fine Gael had not slipped in the polls and Labour had actually moved up.
He then criticised Sinn Féin’s policies and promises, saying: “You can’t have a situation where a party suddenly says you don’t have to pay for water, you don’t have to pay for property, you don’t have to pay for anything except pay 78 per cent tax.
“So people need to reflect very carefully on some of the commitments and promises which are being made that are completely unachievable.”
Asked if he was taken aback by the news that Labour leader Joan Burton has been shown by the latest poll to be more popular than himself, Mr Kenny smiled and said he was “delighted”.
“It is a reflection of her enthusiasm and her leadership,” he said. “Obviously, from a Government point of view it is very important that both parties be able to deal with the challenges and at the same time demonstrate to people we will fulfil our mandate.”
Earlier, Mr Bruton acknowledged a “drift away from the Government”.
He said many families had not benefitted from the upturn in the economy.
“It has been a tough journey for people and we realise that, but there’s real evidence that that plan is working. It’s not by accident that we’re beginning to see that progress,” he said, “But that progress hasn’t reached every family. We’ve 70,000 more at work but there’s a lot more families who haven’t seen immediate gain.”
Asked about the surge in Sinn Féin report, Mr Bruton said: “Obviously there’s a drift away from the Government.”
However, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the Coalition was determined to deliver economic performance that reached people “faster and better”.
“Polls come and go and every other week there’s another issue and it impacts upon how people think about things, but in the long term between elections what people expect is that the economy will be fixed, the public finances will be put back in order, that there’ll be a bright future for themselves and for their children,” he said.
“That’s what gets us up every day to go in and work - and we are having success.”
Fianna Fáil Senator Jim Walsh from Wexford said the party needed to have a "serious" discussion about the poll findings.
“It’s disappointing and a little bit inexplicable. The party has been working hard. We had a good result in the local elections but support appears to have declined since then,” Mr Walsh said. “We have to take a serious look at that.”