Fianna Fail could be overall majority

Fianna Fail could get an overall majority in Thursday's election. The chances may be against the party achieving this but it now cannot be ruled out. By Vincent Browne



The Irish Times TNS/MRHI poll has been adjusted in a way that may significantly understate the support for Fianna Fail. The “core” support for Fianna Fail is 39 per cent, with “undecideds” at 15 per cent. If Fianna Fail were to get 39 per cent of the “undecideds”, its support would be 46 per cent, which would give the party and overwhelming overall majority, more than 88 seats (a majority is 84 seats out of a Dáil with 166 seats).

Because there is a feeling that Fianna Fail is overrepresented in these Irish Times opinion polls, the results are “adjusted” by what appears to be an arbitrary procedure. The adjustment in this latest poll brings the party back from 46 per cent to 41 per cent. But even at 41 per cent it would be possible for the party to come close to an overall majority.

The Irish Times poll is devastating for Fine Gael. It is not just the boost in the ratings for Fianna Fail but the insight it gives into the electorate's perception of the party and its leader, Enda Kenny.

Nearly three quarters of those who expressed an opinion and who saw the leaders' debate last Thursday evening, thought Bertie Ahern had won the debate. An astounding margin. But when one looks at perceptions on how the leaders' capacities to deal with the major issues, it becomes even more depressing for Fine Gael. Bertie Ahern has a margin over Enda Kenny of 55/25 on management of the economy; a margin of 59/25 on representing the country well; 46/27 on keeping taxes low; 48/30 on improving infrastructure. Only in two areas does Enda Kenny rate better than Bertie Ahern: Health services and providing affordable and good quality child care. The electorate is divided almost equally on perceptions of their handling of improving public services and tackling crime.

It seems evident the electorate, by a considerable margin, thinks Bertie Ahern can be trusted with the management of the economy and Enda Kenny cannot.

Bertie's money is not an issue at all. Over a week ago half the electorate thought it was a serious issue, now only a third do, even though 58 per cent think he has more questions to answer. The third who think it remains a serious issue, almost certainly were never going to vote Fianna fail anyway.