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'Stupid mistakes' on cronyism and water has cost us dearly - Coveney

AGRICULTURE Minister Simon Coveney says "stupid mistakes" have cost the Government support after Sinn Fein emerged as the most popular party even ahead of Fine Gael.

Mr Coveney also played down suggestions of a Fine Gael leadership rivalry with Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

After a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll showed drops in support for the Coalition parties, the minister said the poll was taken in a week when "frustrated" people protested" over water charges.

"Clearly the last week hasn't been a good week for the Government parties, and that's frustrating because it is coming on the back of a very positive budget. You wont find the Government panicking because of a bad poll, it is a bad poll," he said.

The poll showed that Fine Gael were down 3pc to 22pc, Labour dropped 2pc to 7pc and Fianna Fáil fell 1pc to 20pc. Meanwhile Sinn Féin jumped 4pc to 26pc and Independents were up 2pc to 23pc. Sinn Fein is the best supported party for the first time.


Mr Coveney said the Government was "incredibly hard-working".

"We've made some stupid mistakes frankly, particularly this year, whether it's on Irish Water, the garda whistleblowers, John McNulty, medical cards.

"These are mistakes that shouldn't have happened and were issues that were poorly managed. But I think we'll learn from those mistakes," he said on Newstalk.

After the poll showed Mr Varadkar was the preferred choice for future Fine Gael leader, Mr Coveney said the Health Minister was doing a good job.

"People like to paint us as two rivals, the reality is we are good friends and there is no leadership opening in Fine Gael and there won't be for the foreseeable future," he said in an interview with Newstalk.

Sinn Fein vice-president Mary Lou McDonald said the poll continued a well-established trend across a number of opinion polls of "deep dissatisfaction and disaffection with Government".

However, despite the rise in popularity of Sinn Fein, the party leader Gerry Adam's disapproval rating has increased by 8pc.

Almost 1,000 adults were questioned for the poll, which was carried out between October 21 and October 31.

Only 8pc of voters believe they are better off as a consequence of Budget 2015.

The poll also show that 67pc of people are uncomfortable handing over their PPS numbers to Irish Water. A quarter of people surveyed said they will not pay their water charges when bills come through the door in January.

However, 56pc of households say they have cut down on their water usage.