For the first time since the 1918 election Sinn Fein is topping the poll among the Irish electorate.

The latest Irish Times poll shows Sinn Fein equal with government lead party Fine Gael with 24 percent of the vote. Fianna Fail, the long time party of government, is at 20 percent and Labour is at 9 percent. The remainder of the vote, 23 percent, is splintered among smaller parties and independents.

The poll shows Sinn Fein is poised to be the largest party in Dublin after the next election with 26 percent of the support there.Their support is overwhelming in working class areas at 39 percent. Sinn Fein is up by four percentage points since the last Irish Times poll.

Their vote is overwhelmingly young, male and working class.

The rise for Sinn Fein has been dramatic. In the 1987 election Sinn Fein got just under two percent of the vote. Their rise in the polls parallels their success in Northern Ireland, where they are now the largest nationalist party.

Fine Gael has been rocked by controversies recently, which means their showing of 24 percent (unchanged) will be seen as satisfactory by some.

However, they have failed to benefit from the improvement in the economic tidings and they and their current coalition partners, Labour, have only 33 percent of the vote between them making it almost impossible they could form another government if the election was held today.

Fianna Fail has seen their vote fell five percent, lost mostly to Sinn Fein it seems, especially in working class areas.

The Labour Party has staged a minor comeback and is now at 9 percent, up from seven percent in the last poll.

The new Labour Leader Joan Burton is enjoying a honeymoon period and has the highest ratings of any party leader at 37 percent followed by Gerry Adams at 35 percent and Enda Kenny and Fianna Fail's Michael Martin at just 26 percent,.

The poll clearly shows the next election will be extremely difficult to call and suggests several different combinations likely for who will end up in government.

The next election is due by April 2016, but it is considered likely it will be held before then.