Economic crisis takes toll on Irish Government

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Economic crisis takes toll on Irish Government

Polls predict political backlash as global financial crisis erodes public confidence in the Fianna Fáil and Green Party coalition government.

Polls predict political backlash as global financial crisis erodes public confidence in the Fianna Fáil and Green Party coalition government.

Disillusioned voters are turning their backs on governing party Fianna Fáil as bad news on the economy start to grow.

Headlines in the first quarter of 2009 saw the nationalisation of the Anglo Irish Bank, budget cutbacks and predictions that unemployment could reach 400,000 by the end of 2009.

After a period of unprecedented economic prosperity, the Celtic Tiger is now experiencing a difficult economic situation because of the global financial crisis and the Irish public seems to have lost confidence in the Government's handling of the economy.

Opinion polls published in Ireland's main national newspapers have been showing public support for governing party Fianna Fáil at a historic low.

In November 2008, two opinion polls published in newspapers The Irish Times and Sunday Independent revealed that public support for Fianna Fáil had collapsed to a 27%, meaning that Ireland's ruling party would lose more than 20 seats in the event of a General Election.

A different poll carried out in January 2009 by Lansdowne Market Research showed 74% of the public saying the coalition Government's handling of the economy was either “very poor” or “fairly poor”, with a majority of 56% expecting a General Election to be called during the course of the year.

On February 13th 2009 a new poll, published by The Irish Times, reported that public support for Fianna Fáil had plummeted even further to 22%. According to the poll, opposition parties Fine Gael and Labour were enjoying support of 32% and 24% respectively, Sinn Féin had reached a 9% of support, and the Green Party remained on 4%.

The polls are bad news indeed for Fianna Fáil, whose public support has never been so low, but also for the Green Party as junior partner in the current coalition Government.

Disaffection over the handling of the economic crisis has also opened breaches inside of the Government's parties with a series of internal disputes and resignations in Fianna Fáil and the Greens.

In March 2009 Taoiseach Brian Cowen suffered a major political embarrassment as a town councillor from his constituency resigned from Fianna Fáil alongside other party members.

Back in January 2009 the Green Party suffered the high profile resignations of Dublin City Councillor Bronwen Maher and Cork City Councillor Chris O'Leary in protest at the party's coalition Government with Fianna Fáil.

Following a month of intense internal debate, the Greens held a special conference in the first week of March 2009 to confirm their intention of staying in Government with Fianna Fáil.

Meanwhile, Progressive Democrats' leader, Senator Ciarán Cannon, announced he will join Fine Gael after his party is finally dissolved, and not Fianna Fáil as some political analysts had expected.

Speaking about the opinion polls published in the past months, Taoiseach Brian Cowen agreed the results were disappointing but insisted his Government would still press ahead with tough decisions.

As the press was speculating on the prospect of a General Election, Mr Cowen addressed the Fianna Fáil party conference the last weekend of February 2009 and told "if we want to get our country moving again, we have to do the right things now, regardless of the short-term political consequences."

Fianna Fáil has been continuously in Government after winning the Irish General Elections of 2007, 2002 and 1997.


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