Fianna Fail leader urges caution as poll puts party 12 points ahead

Michael Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, speaks to the media, with party colleague, Michael McGrath, T

Michael Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, speaks to the media, with party colleague, Michael McGrath, TD, (left) in Dublin after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed Ireland's general election. Photograph: Damien Eagers/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The leader of Fianna Fail has urged caution after a poll gave his party a 12-point lead over rivals Fine Gael.

The Sunday Times/Behaviour and Attitudes opinion poll published shows Fianna Fail's support has increased by five points to 32%, while Fine Gael has dropped by seven points to 20% - the party's lowest standing in the survey.

Further polls will be published this week, with the election to take place on Saturday February 8.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Micheal Martin urged caution over the poll and said it will be a tight race between the two parties.

"I don't think Irish people respond well to negativity and I don't think Irish people respond well to negative electioneering," he said.

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"I have to stress, all our experience tells us from previous campaigns that it's in the last week people make up their mind.

"There is going to be a lot of assessment and debate in the coming weeks but it is very early days yet. Polls will fluctuate."

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He added: "I think polls should be treated with a certain degree of caution.

"I believe the gap between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is much tighter.

"Different polling companies produce different results and we know from our research that, generally speaking, people actually make up their mind in the last week of a campaign."

Fine Gael was accused of negative campaigning after it released a video on Twitter with people wearing masks of Fianna Fail ministers running around Dublin searching for policies, set to Benny Hill Music.

The video was deleted, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying the video set out to highlight Fianna Fail's lack of policies in a light-hearted way but admitted people thought it was silly.

"There has been a lot of negative campaigning by Fine Gael, they would engage in this campaign in a negative way," Martin said.

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