Irish PM’s party level with Sinn Fein in poll for first time since 2021

By Thomson Reuters May 16, 2024 | 3:41 AM

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris’ Fine Gael drew level with Sinn Fein in an opinion poll for the first time in almost three years on Thursday, a further potential setback to the opposition party’s hopes of governing for the first time.

The Irish Times/Ipsos B&A survey taken three weeks before local polls and within a year of the next parliamentary election put Sinn Fein’s support five percentage points lower at 23%, with Fine Gael up 4% since Harris became leader last month.

Sinn Fein had led each of its two main rivals by as much as 14 points across all polls two years ago, putting the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army firmly on course to enter government for the first time and lead the next coalition.

The left wing party’s popularity began to fall after that and Thursday’s drop marked the first time any opinion poll had registered the party’s support below the 24.5% it secured at the last parliamentary election in 2020.

The decline has opened up a possible path to re-election for the coalition, and Fine Gael’s main partners Fianna Fail held steady on 20%.

Independent candidates were also unchanged on 17%.

The Irish Times/Ipsos B&A survey contrasted with recent surveys from Ireland’s two other main pollsters, which showed a small recovery in support for Sinn Fein and that the party held a 7% to 10% lead over its rivals.

Thursday’s poll showed that its support had fallen most sharply among younger, urban and working-class voters. The reasons they switched support are not captured in the data.

“The tide may be turning for the government. An apparently unassailable lead for Sinn Féin only nine months ago has since evaporated,” Ipsos managing director Damian Loscher said.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin)