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Sinn Fein leapfrog Fine Gael into second place ahead of Republic election, poll says

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Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein are two points ahead of Fine Gael with the Republic of Ireland set to go the polls next Saturday, according to a new poll.

A Panelbase poll for The Times has put Sinn Fein on 21%, above Fine Gael on 19% and narrowly behind Fianna Fail on 23%.

The poll, conducted between January 24 and 30, asked 1000 people who they intended to vote for in the upcoming election.

It is the latest strong poll showing for the party ahead of the election on February 8 and puts them ahead of the leading party in the Irish government for the first time.

Repeated positive showings have led to speculation that Sinn Fein may enter government as part of a coalition following the election.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been adamant that his party will not enter government with Sinn Fein, a sentiment echoed by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

Both parties are also reluctant to enter into a coalition with each other, despite Fianna Fail supporting the previous Fine Gael government through a confidence and supply agreement.

However, former Fianna Fail Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that he believes the possibility of a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein coalition will be discussed after the election.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has said that it would be a "challenge" to agree a programme of government for coalition with Fine Gael or Fine Fail, but not impossible.

Both Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar have expressed concern over the influence of unelected officials on Sinn Fein.

As recently as November 2019 the PSNI have said that the IRA Army Council retains oversight of Sinn Fein.

The Taoiseach has said that Sinn Fein TDs do not make "key decisions" in the party.

“It’s made by an Ard Comhairle and we don’t think that’s proper in a democratic society,” he said.

Mr Martin said he could "never be sure with Sinn Fein in terms of who you are dealing with".

"Is it unelected officials in Belfast who rule the roost, who control the levers of power within that party?," the Fianna Fail leader said.

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Sinn Fein activists calling for a border poll, stage a demonstration outside Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Brian Lawless/PA)

Sinn Fein activists calling for a border poll, stage a demonstration outside Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Brian Lawless/PA)

Sinn Fein activists calling for a border poll, stage a demonstration outside Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Brian Lawless/PA)

Speaking on Friday, Sinn Fein leader Mrs McDonald said she would only enter a coalition government committed to pushing for a referendum on Irish unity and laying the groundwork for a debate on constitutional change.

“I have said very clearly that I believe that we should have a border poll within the next five years and more importantly that preparations for constitutional change need to start," she said.

“This shouldn’t be written up as some sort of exotic red line for Sinn Fein, this is an absolute necessity."

The poll listed independents and others at 11%, the Green Party at 10%, and the Social Democrats, Labour and Solidarity-PBP all on 5%.

Undecided voters made up 13% and they were excluded from the poll, the margin of error was 3%.

Belfast Telegraph