The Irish electorate fear the worst ahead of this Friday’s general election -- the first since the dramatic collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy.

A “Sunday Independent”/Millward Brown opinion poll has predicted that Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny will emerge as taoiseach (prime minister) when the new Dail (Irish Parliament) sits in March.

But he will lead a country heading down the pans according to those polled on behalf of the nation’s biggest selling Sunday newspaper.

The paper commented on “a level of fear and pessimism among the electorate that is stark.”

The paper went on to highlight the real fears of those who will vote on the make-up of the next government when polling stations open early on Friday morning.

According to the poll, three in four Irish voters believe the current recession, which has crippled the country financially, will last for more than another three years.

Of those polled, eight in 10 expect a reduction in their standard of living, and seven in 10 worry about their household bills.

With unemployment rife and emigration on the increase daily, four in 10 of those questioned have serious worries about losing their job, and almost three in 10 worry about losing their home.

Over half of those surveyed, 54 percent, maintain there should be compulsory redundancies in the public sector, and 51 percent want the EU-International Monetary Fund bail-out deal for the national finances renegotiated as a priority.

The poll was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, with 1,015 adults questioned at 93 sampling points all across the country.