`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.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home