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Keep faith in Labour despite poll forecasts, minister urges voters

Published 21/02/2016

Members of the public walk past a polling station sign in Dublin
Members of the public walk past a polling station sign in Dublin
Communications Minister Alex White insisted his party could benefit from a late surge in support

A Labour minister has urged voters to keep trust in his party despite some dire forecasts in pre-election opinion polls.

If the pollsters are correct, the junior coalition partner is heading for a battering in Friday's vote. One of the latest surveys placed support for the party at just 4%.

Communications Minister Alex White insisted his party could benefit from a late surge in support, with many undecided voters opting for Labour in the final days of campaigning.

"There's a lot of people and I meet them on the doors where they say 'look we'd like to vote Labour, we've always voted Labour' (but) they see it through the prism of their own lives - the last five years, the last eight years - and they are disappointed and, in some cases, they are angry and I understand that," he said.

"But I say to people like that 'keep trust with the Labour party'. We did a huge amount to ensure that this country recovered, we can now have a much different five years ahead. I think a lot of people will come to us in the last few days."

The Behaviour & Attitudes poll for the Sunday Times, the results of which were leaked prior to publication on Sunday, rated support for Fine Gael at 30%, Fianna Fail at 22% and Sinn Fein at 15%.

Labour was relegated to sixth place, lagging behind the 5% attributed to the two main independent groupings - the Independent Alliance and Anti-Austerity Alliance/ People Before Profit. In other recent polls Labour support has been rated at around 8 to 9%.

Mr White criticised the stance of rival left wing candidates who were advocating a radical change in government direction.

He told RTE: "I hear some parties on the left, or the so-called left, saying they will never compromise on any of their policies - they will, unless they decide never to be in government, because government is about compromise."

His remarks came as party leader Joan Burton outlined proposals she said would increase the take home pay of low or middle income working people, including eliminating Universal Social Charge (USC) on the first 72,000 euro of individual income.

Asked at the weekend to respond to the disappointing poll results, Ms Burton said: "I'm a fighter and I'm up for a fight. I've never stood back from a fight."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was forced to defend his use of language after he branded some critics in his hometown of Castlebar as "whingers".

Mr Kenny was referring to those he said refused to acknowledge the recovery was having a positive impact on the town.

The Fine Gael leader stood by his remarks, despite facing calls for an apology.

"Some of them wouldn't know sunshine if they saw it," said Mr Kenny.

Fianna Fail candidate in Mayo Lisa Chambers criticised the Taoiseach, accusing him of being "out of touch".

"The arrogance that has been the hallmark of Fine Gael in government and their national campaign is now emerging locally and is a sign of the pressure the Taoiseach is beginning to feel," she said.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he was not interested in poll results, insisting his focus was on the views of voters on the doorsteps.

Sinn Fein's Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness joined the campaign trail in Dublin on Sunday, urging the electorate to "seize the moment".

He accused Fine Gael of resorting to the "politics of fear".

"Sinn Fein are for the politics of hope," he said.

"Next Friday, the people will have the opportunity to change things for the better, and Sinn Fein want to be part of that change.

"For the first time, in all our lifetimes, we have the opportunity to have Sinn Fein in government north and south.

"Governments that will stand up for equality. Governments that will deliver a fair recovery. Governments with a plan for unity and reconciliation. Governments with a plan to sustain the peace process. Governments that will act in the national interest."

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