Fianna Fail, which has been the governing party either on its own or in coalition for 58 year since Eamon de Valera abolished the Oath of Allegiance to the British king in 1932, is continuing to lose public support and is falling further behind Sinn Fein.
Now pressure is on party leader Micheal Martin at this weekend’s annual convention to become more aggressive as the party flounders in opposition.
Despite being hammered in the general election a year ago, Fianna Fail remains the biggest party in Opposition with 19 TDs (members of Parliament) compared with 14 for Sinn Fein and 20 for independents and others.
But a Sunday Times opinion poll this week registered a drop in public support for Fianna Fail of 4%, leaving the party at a support rate of 16%. Sinn Fein went up four points to 25%, a figure if reflected in the next general election would put Sinn Fein way ahead of Fianna Fail.
The behavior and attitudes poll for the newspaper indicated that Sinn Fein have the backing of one quarter of the electorate, putting it firmly in second place behind Fine Gael which rules in coalition with Labor.
A year ago Ireland went to the polls for what turned out to be one of the most dramatic general elections in decades.
Fianna Fail’s 70-year dominance of Irish politics came to an end, while Fine Gael, Labor and Sinn Fein all won their highest-ever number of seats.
Since the previous Sunday Times poll in December, just after the budget, support for Fine Gael has gone up by two points to 32%. Support for their coalition partners Labor has dipped by one point to 10%.
Satisfaction with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, who heads Fine Gael, is down three points to 41%, while Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Eamon Gilmore of Labor dropped one to 34%.
Fianna Fail’s Martin went down a substantial seven points to 33%, while Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams is down two to 46%. He is still the highest rated of any party leader.
This weekend, Martin faces enormous pressure from frustrated members to become less cautious in tackling the Fine Gael/Labor coalition.
Internal critics claim the party is “hamstrung,” “over-cautious” and needlessly clinging on to policies when it was in government just over a year ago under former Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
The party’s public spending spokesman Sean Fleming said, “Everything has moved on. The economy has moved on, our policies haven’t moved on.”
It is Martin’s first annual conference as leader, and has been described as one of the most crucial in the beleaguered party’s 86-year history.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail has made a written complaint to the director general of state broadcaster RTE that news and current-affairs programs at the station are “clearly biased” in favor of Labor and Sinn Fein.
In the 12-page document, seen by the Sunday Independent, Fianna Fail said it “appears clear” that there had been a “radical, unilateral and unexplained” change in the manner in which RTE covered the views of the opposition.
RTE has rejected the accusation of “bias” and said it took “very seriously the responsibility to be even-handed.”