Fianna Fail is taking steps to combat the electoral threat of Sinn Fein after a shock internal poll, the Herald can reveal.
The private Fianna Fail survey reveals that Sinn Fein is threatening to take one seat in each of the 11 five-seater constituencies in the General Election, and has plunged FF into a "life-or-death" fight for seats.
A senior Fianna Fail figure revealed that this could decimate the party which is enjoying a rare lift in popularity following the election of Micheal Martin as leader.
The research reveals that the significant factor behind the swing was the arrival of the IMF/EU into the country. This perceived loss of sovereignty is strongly influencing voting intentions. It belies recent opinion that the debacle over Brian Cowen and ministerial resignations was a major issue for voters. Instead some voters see SF as representing their anger at the arrival of the IMF/EU into the country.
''What is scary is that they are not voting for SF on a candidate basis but for the party as a brand," said the FF source.
"The IMF bailout was the single biggest issue for voters."
The research may be behind Micheal Martin's challenge to Gerry Adams for a one-to-one public debate.
The polls show that Sinn Fein is successfully capturing disaffected FF voters who would previously be regarded as strongly republican.
FF is now set to target Adams on the economy after this week's 'car crash' performance on Morning Ireland. The Sinn Fein leader gave some bizarre answers on economic issues.
Recent opinion polls put SF on its highest-ever rating. The concern was that the party would not have enough high- profile candidates to convert this high rating into seats. Equally the party doesn't traditionally attract high transfers and its younger supporters don't always turn out for elections.
Predictions vary from 10 seats to a high of 20 seats for Sinn Fein. They will be relying on transfers to candidates who have good community track records.
The current five TDs are likely to be elected including Gerry Adams who replaces Arthur Morgan in Louth.
Other likely seats could be gained in Dublin constituencies where the likes of Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin Central and Sean Crowe in Dublin South West along with others could bring in six seats.
The internal Fianna Fail poll findings are a further headache for FF Leader Micheal Martin. Martin impressed what is left of the party faithful with his targeting of FG Leader Enda Kenny for a three-way debate.