Tánaiste Joan Burton questions accuracy of poll predicting she will lose her seat
By Juno McEnroe
Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton says she faces a "challenge" getting elected but questioned the accuracy of a poll predicting she could lose her Dublin West seat in the election.
Putting on a brave face after the Millwared Browne poll put her fighting for a Dáil place in the four-seat constituency, Ms Burton also said she was looking forward to tonight's first televised leaders debate on TV3.
She said: "In relation to tonight's debate, I'm actually looking forward to it. I think it is important that voters and the people of Ireland get to hear the vision of each of the party leaders over the next five years."
Ms Burton though questioned the accuracy of the poll's prediction for Dublin West, which says her vote will be halved compared to the 2011 election.
"It is a smaller size sample [of people], therefore the margin of error is over 4%. Secondly, it indicates a very high number of undecided votes."
The Social Protection Minister said that she had said repeatedly that a lot of people would not make up their mind until very close to polling day, as had been evident in shock results in the US and British elections.
The poll found that outgoing Health Minister Leo Varadkar looks set to top the poll with 20%, holding the lead position jointly with Sinn Féin's Paul Donnelly.
Fianna Fáil's resurgent support also looks set to put their candidate, Jack Chambers, in the Dáil, who will finally take back the seat formerly held by the late finance minister Brian Lenihan. Chambers, the poll claims, is on 17%.
Ms Burton admitted that, just like Brian Lenihan in 2011, she now faces a similar challenge to hold her seat in Dublin West.
Ms Burton's problem lies in the fact that voters polled put her fighting with an outside chance for the fourth and final seat with AAA-PBP candidate Ruth Coppinger in Dublin West.
However, it claims that Coppinger, boosted by the retirement of Joe Higgins here, is currently 5% ahead of the Tánaiste in the race for the fourth seat.
Burton, the Millward Browne poll says, is trailing at just 10%-half of what the popular TD had achieved during the 2011 general election.
Ms Burton lost her seat before in 1997 but has been a solid performer ever since in general elections.
A key to her retaining her seat will be transfers, which are likely to come from Mr Varadkar, as well as whether she can gain support on the Navan Road and Cabra, transferred under boundary changes into the constituency.
If the Labour leader were to lose her seat, the result could be one of the biggest political casualties of election 2016.
Voters have gone to the poll here on three occasions over the last five years.