The government’s aborted plan to commemorate the RIC this year is costing Fine Gael massive support in the party’s general election campaign.
The first opinion poll five days after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the February 8 election has given the lowest ever rating to his party.
The poll in the Sunday Times put Fine Gael on 20 percent, a seven-point fall in a month. The same poll put Fianna Fail at 32 percent, up five points in the same period.
The 12-point gap wasn’t reflected in a second poll in The Irish Times on Tuesday, but it still put Fianna Fail in the lead over its main rival for the first time in three years.
The poll in the Irish Times, where comparisons were made with a similar poll last October, showed FF was unchanged at 25 percent while Fine Gael dropped six points to 23 percent.
Falling support for Fine Gael is widely believed to have been influenced by the row over the planned commemoration of the RIC.
The commemoration, in which many politicians and town mayors refused to attend the Dublin-based ceremony, was abandoned days before Varadkar asked President Michael D. Higgins to dissolve the Dail in preparation for the election campaign.
A day after the Sunday Times poll, the Irish Independent reported an admission by Varadkar that there was now “a real risk, a real danger” of Fine Gael losing out to Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail.
The Independent also reported that many in Fine Gael feared the party’s second seats in some constituencies across the country were now at risk following the shock opinion poll.
That could potentially put in danger the political careers of several high-profile ministers, including Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, and Defense Minister Paul Kehoe.
One prominent Fine Gael campaigner admitted that if the Sunday Times figures were true, the election would be worse than 2002.
That was a reference to a disastrous election 18 years ago when Fine Gael won only 31 seats.
In the Tuesday report in The Irish Times, there was growing support for Sinn Fein, up seven points to 21 percent.
Labour was down one at five percent, the Green Party was unchanged at eight percent and there was no change for independents and other small parties at 18 percent.
The commemoration for the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, both accused of outrages against the Irish people before they were replaced by the Garda Siochana following the establishment of the State 100 years ago, was set for last Friday.
But it was canceled following public and political backlash.
Bookies have Fianna Fail as hot favorites to win most seats in the election, with the most likely government to be a coalition of FF and the Greens.
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