Main Irish opposition party to lead new government: poll

Ireland’s main Fine Gael opposition party is on course to lead the country’s new government after the February 25 general election and has increased its lead, according to an opinion poll on Sunday.

Several days after the election was called, the Sunday Business Post/Red C tracking poll showed support for the centre-right Fine Gael had gone up two points to 35 percent since the paper’s last poll a week ago.

“Fine Gael remains firmly on course to win the general election and lead the next government — most likely in a coalition with the Labour party,” the newspaper said.

The centre-right opposition Labour party also went up one point to 22 percent in the first week of the campaign.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s ruling Fianna Fail party, now led by former foreign minister Micheal Martin, also picked up an extra point and is at 17 percent.

Support for the republican group Sinn Fein is at 13 percent and for the Greens at 2 percent, both unchanged.

The biggest fall in the first week is the four point drop to 11 percent in support for independent candidates following the decision of a number of high-profile journalists and celebrities not to contest the election.

The newspaper says support for all the main parties is “remarkably solid” and it will take something big to change it, with the poll showing Fine Gael voters are the most committed of all parties.

A debt crisis brought down Ireland’s one-time “Celtic Tiger” economy and forced it to seek an 85-billion-euro ($115-billion) bailout last November, the lion’s share of which will come from the EU and IMF.

The Fianna Fail/Green party coalition subsequently collapsed and Cowen was forced to call early elections.

Red C interviewed a random sample of 1,013 adults by telephone on February 1 and 2.