Only 25% think the Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, Mr Martin, is the most influential politician in government.
By Conor Lenihan.
|The latest opinion poll, this time from the Irish Mail on Sunday, posits more bad news for Fianna Fáil and its somewhat beleaguered leader Micheál Martin.|
Fianna Fáil’s opinion-poll rating continues to languish around the 15% level while their colleagues in government, Fine Gael, remain in robust polling health at 24% support.
In contrast to Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin are reaping a rich harvest of support placing them well on course to be the largest party in Ireland after the next general election.
In political circles it is now taken as inevitable that Sinn Féin will be in government soon.
The fate awaiting Fianna Fáil, as distinct from Fine Gael, is an inevitable further drubbing at the polls and possible total extinction.
The strength of a party’s leader’s ratings tends to bid up the overall party rating in an election.
Equally if the leader is lagging the party level of support this tends to bring the overall support for the party down on polling day.
In its latest poll the Mail on Sunday threw in two extra questions that are not usually asked.
One on whom those polled felt was most influencing the direction of government policy: Leo Varadkar emerged as the winner with a score of 54%.
This is remarkable because the Taoiseach Micheál Martin only chalked up 25% – embarrassingly adrift of Varadkar.
This will only add to the perception that Varadkar and Fine Gael are running rings around Fianna Fáil in government.
The fact that Martin and his ministers rushed to defend Varadkar over Fine Gael blunders with the Zappone appointment has added to the unease in Fianna Fáil.
To add to Martin’s woes the same poll showed a majority favoured him stepping down as Fianna Fáil leader when he ceased to be Taoiseach.
The challenge for Martin’s parliamentary colleagues is whether they should seek to remove Martin now or wait until Leo Varadkar comes back in as Taouseach.
There are at least 14 of his parliamentary party whio who are prepared to move on Martin.
Only five more TDs would be enough to shift him.
Others within his ministerial ranks must be getting nervous; or now reckon that they might secure promotion if there was a quick change of leadership.
The same thinking must surely apply to those who feel aggrieved at being excluded from the Martin ministerial line-up.
Fianna Fáil party inquests into both the 2020 general election and the disastrous showing in the Dublin Bay South by-election are due soon.
The discussions around these should crystallise sentiment on the leadership issue.
Potential contenders for Martin’s position within the current cabinet must be considering whether their chances are endangered if they continue with him in charge as they may become damaged by association.
For the supporters of non-cabinet contender Jim O’Callaghan there must now be an imperative to stage a contest even if it is only to make a point.
O’Callaghan has been urging caution on his supporters in a bid not to alienate support from as yet “undecided” or wavering deputies.
This is fast becoming a perilous balancing act on his part.
Efforts to sign a leadership-heave letter, led by Marc MacSharry, seem to have foundered in the run into the summer.
There is such a disparity now between the views of members of the parliamentary party and those who hold appointed government office that it has become volatile.
There is a new and fractious energy as we emerge from the worst of Covid into a likely autumn and winter of discontent.
The prize for some of those who wish to replace Martin is the possibility of holding the office of Taoiseach before it is handed back to Varadkar at the end of next year.
Conor Lenihan is a former Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation. He served as Fianna Fáil deputy for Dublin South West for 14 years.