`Rainbow' coalition narrows gap in run-up to Irish poll

New opinion polls suggest that the result of Ireland's general election next week will be on a knife-edge, with the outgoing "rainbow" coalition rapidly narrowing the lead held by the centre-right opposition alliance.

Two weekend polls found the previous week's 8 per cent lead held by Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats (PDs) under their hard- hitting leader Mary Harney cut to 4 per cent.

The opposition lead could now be narrower following weekend controversy over tough social policy reforms urged by Ms Harney's party. Her call for allowances for single mothers to be redirected to encourage them to stay at home with their own parents has caused unease among her prospective government partners. The Democratic Left accused the PD of "playing to intolerance for political gain" and "targeting the weakest and most vulnerable members of society."

Left-wing coalition parties could hardly conceal their glee at the PD line, which allowed them to reaffirm their radical social concern. This prompted crisis talks between Ms Harney and Mr Ahern on Sunday. Fianna Fail also has many voters in the state sector, where the PDs want to cut 25,000 jobs.

The latest polls show Fianna Fail at 41 per cent; Fine Gael steady at 26 per cent; Labour up two points to 14 per cent; PDs down one at 5 per cent; and Democratic Left unchanged at two.

The improved Labour showing is critical to the government retaining power, as it is now hitting the level needed to retain two-thirds of the record 33 seats it secured in 1992.

The hustings had earlier been dominated by rival tax- cutting pledges, with the opposition's plan for a 5 per cent reduction countered by a broader government plan to reform allowances, tax bands and social insurance levels to lift disposable incomes.

Government parties stressed that their plan would give more, wider relief to the lower paid, with the 15 per cent of top-rate tax-payers receiving assistance only after two years if finances allow.

Current party strengths in the 166-seat Dail elected in 1992 are Fianna Fail 68; Fine Gael 46; Labour 32; PDs 8; Democratic Left 6 and Green Party 1; with five others, including the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker). Sinn Fein has an outside chance of taking its first Dail seat since it won four forty years ago in 1957.

All the major parties have resisted attempts to bring abortion on to the agenda, fearing a repeat of the hounding of individual TDs (MPs) by hard-line campaigners seen throughout the Eighties.

Last week, the conservative Archbishop of Dublin urged a new referendum to outlaw any abortion in Ireland. Dr Desmond Connell said it was "disconcerting" that opposition to abortion was not being reflected in the public positions of political parties.

The new National Party, headed by Limerick dancing teacher Nora Bennis, is backing a "pro-family" anti-abortion line and wants a pounds 100-a-week wage to enable mothers to stay at home with their children.

Irish abortion law has been confused since a 1992 Supreme Court ruling allowed a 14-year-old girl the right to an abortion abroad after hearing that she was a suicide risk.

Three referendums later that year confirmed women's right to information about abortion and travel but rejected a loosely drafted proposal to permit terminations in Ireland where the health, as opposed to the life, of the mother was at risk.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor