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Irish PM's support slumps to record low: poll

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(DUBLIN) - Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen's personal and party support has slumped to record lows following the EU-IMF bailout deal, a new poll showed Friday.

The Red C survey for The Irish Sun newspaper, the first conducted since the 85-billion-euro (112-billion-dollar) deal, shows Cowen's personal rating is just eight percent.

His centrist Fianna Fail party has also plummeted to 13 percent compared to the 42 percent backing it received in the 2007 general election.

In stormy debates in parliament this week, the embattled Cowen has been blasted for the European Union and International Monetary Fund loans, with opposition parties accusing him of "selling out" Irish sovereignty and "taking the nation to the pawn shop".

The poll comes as Cowen's Fianna Fail/Green party coalition plans to introduce a severe austerity budget next week which will involve six billion euros in spending cuts and tax increases.

The poll would spell disaster for Fianna Fail if it is replicated in the next general election, expected early in the new year.

Cowen has said the election will take place after the budget process has been completed.

The Irish Sun predicts Fianna Fail would lose about 50 of the 78 seats it won in 2007, and would end up in fourth place behind socialists Sinn Fein.

Publicity surrounding Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams' decision to stand in the Republic of Ireland rather than Northern Ireland, plus the party's victory in a by-election last week, boosted its poll rating to 16 percent.

The centrist Fine Gael main opposition party topped the poll with 32 percent, while the Labour Party came second on 24 percent.

Fine Gael have teamed up with Labour every time they have been in government and the two parties are expected to form the next administration.

The Irish Sun says the poll indicates there has been a "seismic shift".

Fianna Fail has dominated Irish politics since its first entered parliament in 1932.

The poll of 1,000 voters was undertaken by Red C between Monday and Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.

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