The Ipsos MRBI survey for the Irish Times had support for left-wing Sinn Fein up four percent from the previous poll last month to 25 percent. SimIlar polls over recent weeks had suggested the party would finish third with the backing of just a fifth of the electorate. The latest survey shows support for centre-right Fianna Fail has slipped two percent to 23 percent, while Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party are languishing in third position with 20 percent of the vote.
Support for the Taoiseach’s party had been as high as 36 percent from the same poll conducted just over a year ago, but shows the Irish public are quickly losing faith in him.
Meanwhile, support for Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has surged seven percent from last month’s poll to 41 percent, while Mr Varadkar has seen his popularity slump by five percent to 30 percent.
But despite the surge in support, Sinn Fein are unlikely to emerge as the largest party from Saturday’s general election as it is only running 42 candidates.
This is around half the number of candidates being fielded by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
Leo Varadkar has been dealt a huge blow in a leading poll just before the Irish general election
The Taoiseach’s popularity has also plummeted in the latest poll
Sinn Fein has pledged to abolish the Universal Social Charge, a tax imposed to help repay international lending to Ireland following the post-boom collapse of the economy, on the first €30,000 earned.
It has also said it would scrap a levy on property if it got into power.
Mary Lou McDonald has also been invited by broadcaster RTE to take part in Tuesday evening’s leaders’ debate.
The original line-up for the debate was to be limited to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Mr Varadkar.
Support for Mary Lou McDonald has surged
But the RTE General Election steering committee met on Monday to consider the party’s representations to include Ms McDonald following Sinn Fein’s surge in recent polls.
Sinn Fein director of elections Pearse Doherty said: “I want to welcome the decision by RTE to extend an invite to Mary Lou McDonald to take part in tomorrow’s party leaders’ debate on Prime Time, and I am happy to confirm that Mary Lou will be participating.
“That being said, this should not have come down to a last-minute decision on the part of RTE.”
Mr Varadkar started his final week of campaigning by insisting he will work right until the end to convince people to vote for Fine Gael.
He said: “I appreciate what we’re offering is less than what the other parties are offering on this but I’m concerned that what’s happening is an auction and an auction that could result in us auctioning off the pensions of the young.”
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Mary Lou McDonald will take part in a leaders’ debate on RTE on Tuesdayevening
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said Fine Gael will tell voters not all change is good, following polls showing support for the party is declining.
Speaking in Dublin on Monday, he said: “Not all change can be risk-free and not all change can be positive.
“What we are going to be doing as we head into the final week of the campaign is emphasising that in our manifesto and in the plans that we have published we have recognised the progress that has been made in our country – due to the sacrifices of the Irish people – and making the claim to the Irish people that change is happening and we are ambitious for more change to happen.”
He added: “In relation to Fianna Fail and the changes they say they will make – where are their plans? Where is their detail?
“We will be building on what we have already done, acknowledging what needs to be done and be unapologetic in challenging other parties that are putting forward mantras of change but in offering these mantras of change.
Leo Varadkar is desperately trying to fight off strong challenges from his rivals
“Fianna Fail are putting forward their worst hits of their recent past and what Sinn Fein are offering is the kind of ideas that will do such harm to workers income, to wages and to their jobs.
“They have claimed they are going to put forward new ideas for investment involving 15 different tax hikes – tax hikes that would be bad for those at work, tax hikes that would be bad for those looking to create jobs.”
Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath claimed Sinn Fein’s tax policies will leave Ireland a “cold place” for businesses.
Irish voters are due to go to the polls on Saturday as Mr Varadkar desperately tries to fight off wrong challenges from opposition parties.
But on Monday it was announced Ireland’s final general election results will be delayed following the death of a candidate.
Paschal Donohoe lashed out at plans from Fianna Fail
Marese Skehan, aged in her sixties, was an independent and was not among the frontrunners for seats.
Her sudden death means five seats in the next Dail parliament will not be filled this weekend.
Instead, there will be a vote on a later date as nominations have to be reopened.
Leaving one constituency’s places open could potentially also complicate efforts to form a coalition Government.