Ireland's Opposition Party Gains Support Following Brexit Vote

The Fianna Fail party surged 9 percentage points, stealing support from independents, a poll shows.

Rival election posters for Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin as they adorn a lamp post in Dublin, Feb. 5, 2016.
Shawn Pogatchnik/AP

REUTERS – Support for Ireland's main opposition party Fianna Fail has surged since its decision to back Prime Minister Enda Kenny's minority government from opposition, resulting in a nine percentage point lead, an opinion poll showed on Thursday. 

After suffering heavy losses in February elections, Kenny's centre-right party returned to power with the backing of a group of independent lawmakers and facilitated by Fianna Fail, which agreed to abstain on key votes but has been able to hand the government embarrassing defeats in others. 

"It is impossible to avoid the temptation to link the swing towards a more cohesive opposition, and away from a fragmented one, to the uncertainty created by the UK's vote to leave the EU," Ipsos MRBI's Damian Loscher said. 

"It would also be foolish to stop at Brexit in the search for an explanation. Independents are mavericks in opposition but can cause mayhem in government, and the precariousness of the current arrangement is not giving voters the added comfort they need in a time of uncertainty." 

Backing for the fellow centre-right Fianna Fail, Ireland's dominant political force before being dumped from power for leading the country into the 2008 financial crisis, rose to an eight-year high of 33 percent compared to the 24 percent it won at the election, the Irish Times/IPSOS MRBI poll showed. 

Fine Gael fell two points to 24 percent. The government is due to run until the end of 2018 and with Kenny committed to not leading his party into the next election, local media reported that lawmakers for the first time called for the succession planning to begin at a Fine Gael internal meeting on Wednesday. 

Fianna Fail's surge came mostly at the expense of independent candidates whose support fell 8 points to 22 percent. The survey's authors pointed to the uncertainty for the Irish economy resulting from Britain's vote to leave the European Union last month.