November 22, 2014 / 9:53 PM / 3 years ago

Irish PM's party popularity hit by water levy protests: poll

Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny talks to the media as he arrives at an informal summit of European Union leaders in Brussels May 27, 2014. REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The popularity of Irish prime minister Enda Kenny’s party has slumped since it announced the first non-austerity budget in seven years last month and mass protests against new water charges began, an opinion poll showed on Saturday.

Only 22 percent of voters said they would vote for Kenny’s center-right Fine Gael party, down 6 percentage points since the Oct. 14 budget and 14 points since its election in 2011, the RED C-Sunday Business Post opinion poll, said.

It was the lowest rating the party has ever had in a Red C poll.

Fine Gael has been rocked by mass protests against new water charges and a series of scandals about poor management at the company set up to administer them. Water services had been paid for from general taxation.

The biggest beneficiaries of the protests have been left-wing Sinn Fein party which is the joint most popular party with 22 percent and Independents/Others on 27 percent.

Sinn Fein’s popularity was unchanged compared to the last RED C poll in an apparent sign recent accusations in parliament that members of the party had failed to properly report sex abuse had not had a significant impact.

The three parties that have formed the backbone of all Irish government’s since the 1930s, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour, now have less than 50 percent of the vote between them, the poll said, highlighting the possibility of a major realignment of Irish politics at elections due in early 2016.

Kenny’s coalition government with Labour has overseen a dramatic recovery in the Irish economy from a disastrous real estate crash and banking crisis that forced an international bailout in 2010.

Ireland last year became the first euro zone country to exit an international bailout and the economy is forecast to grow almost 5 percent this year, which would likely make it the best performing in the euro zone.

But many people who took part in two mass protests in recent weeks said they were not feeling the recovery and accused the government of unfairly targeting the poor with cutbacks.

Reporting by Conor Humphries, editing by David Evans

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