Fine Gael, the main Irish opposition party, has increased its lead in the first poll of the new year and now are at 35 per cent, 14 per cent ahead of the Labor Party which stands at 21 per cent.

The poll makes clear that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is almost definitely the next Prime Minister of Ireland when the election is held, likely in March. The party has positioned itself as the only one not in hock to major labor unions or big business.

The current main government party Fianna Fail have slumped to just 14 per cent in the Red C/Paddy Power poll, level with Sinn Fein which is an extraordinary result for both parties.

Fianna Fail had 44 per cent of the votes in the last election, while Sinn Fein had just 6.5 per cent.

The Labor Party is at 21 per cent, down considerably from late last year when they briefly headed Fine Gael in some polls.

The minority party in government, The Green Party, is at 4 per cent, doubling their previous standing, while independents are at 12 per cent.

The Fianna Fail vote, were it reflected in the election, would devastate the party which has been in power 22 of the last 24 years. They would likely end up with about 25 seats as against the 76 they won the last time.

Labor Party’s decline is seen as a reaction to their response to the financial crisis where they have said they will renegotiate the IMF/European Union loan, as well as their closeness to the labor unions which does not sit well with many middle-class voters.

     Poll finding:

    * Fine Gael 35% (+1%)
    * Labour 21% (-2%)
    * Fianna Fáil 14% (-3%)
    * Sinn Féin 14% (unchanged)
    * Green Party 4% (+2%)
    * Independents and others 12% (+2%)