The Labour Party has dramatically become the best supported party in the Republic according to an opinion poll.
But trouble deepened for Taoiseach Brian Cowen as support for him and Fianna Fail dropped significantly. The poll was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday, before the reports into the banking crisis, which were highly critical of his tenure as Finance Minister, were published.
That raises the possibility that the heavy losses for party and leader could have been even worse. And if the Labour surge was to translate into seats in crude terms, then the party could go from 20 TDs to 60.
However, while Labour is benefiting from Fianna Fail's travails, Fine Gael (FG) and its leader Enda Kenny are failing to make any ground at FF's expense.
Support for FG fell by 4pc, effectively eroding any gains since the last general election.
Mr Cowen and Mr Kenny both plunged in their personal satisfaction ratings, mirroring the drop in their respective parties. Labour soared to 32pc, up a massive eight points since January, making it the number one party in the country, according to the latest figures.
Eamon Gilmore's personal stock, at 46pc, remained steady as he held on to the title of the most popular party leader. Support for Labour, as detailed in the 'Irish Times' Ipsos/MRBI opinion poll, is treble what the party achieved in the last general election in 2007.
It is double the party's support from the local and European elections a year ago.
Mr Gilmore's rhetoric is clearly connecting with an electorate angry with the economic downturn. But the poll will also place more focus on his party's lack of firm economic policies.
By contrast, Mr Kenny's poor displays are costing him and his party dearly. After getting 27pc of the votes in the general election, Fine Gael is only on 28pc -- down 4pc since January.
During this period, Mr Kenny vowed to change his style and up his game after the crisis over his leadership sparked by the departure of celebrity TD George Lee.
But the 'New Enda' has flopped with the electorate as his satisfaction rating is again down seven points to 24pc.
Fine Gael's latest poll slump will again raise doubts about Mr Kenny's leadership and questions over whether he is a liability to the party.
Despite Fianna Fail dropping a staggering 25 points since the last general election and the PDs being wound up, Fine Gael failed to make any gains.
In line with his party's decline again, Mr Cowen's personal satisfaction rating is down another eight points to 18pc. Satisfaction with the Government is at just 12pc -- down seven points.
The Greens held at 3pc, the same as in the previous poll five months ago. Environment Minister and Green leader John Gormley is on 21pc -- down three points.
Sinn Fein, on 9pc, is up one point as party president Gerry Adams's popularity rating remains steady at 31pc.
Independents hold steady on 11pc -- no change from the previous poll.
Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton last night stopped short of saying he had confidence in Mr Kenny.
"The public are angry and frustrated and clearly the Labour Party has captured the protest mood much more," he said.
Asked by RTE Prime Time host Miriam O'Callaghan if he had confidence in Mr Kenny, he again avoided the question.
"I'm just as much in the dock in terms of Fine Gael's failings. We're all in the dock. We have to look at our whole performance as a party," he said.
Mr Cowen insisted he was not going to resign or call a general election in the wake of the disastrous poll results.
He said people would have their democratic opportunity to vote when his Government served its full term, which is due to end in May 2012.
"I'm not going to walk away from my post. I'm going to make sure that I see us through this period, that I take the decisions we have to take, that we face up to the problems," he said.
The Greens will also come under major pressure from opposition parties to back-off supporting the Taoiseach -- but they continue to show loyalty to Mr Cowen.
Source Irish Independent