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Irish govt support up despite bank bailout - poll

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Support for the party of new Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has increased since he came to power, despite an unpopular decision to pump more money into nationalised banks, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.

Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny holds a news conference at the end of a two-day European Union leaders summit in Brussels March 25, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Vidal/Files

Kenny’s Fine Gael secured a record majority with coalition partners Labour at elections in February, but analysts said his standing might suffer as the government implements conditions of an 85 billion euro IMF/EU bailout agreed last year by the previous administration.

The first national opinion poll since the election showed that 39 percent of those polled would vote for Fine Gael if an election were held tomorrow, up three points from the 36 percent who voted for the party on election day.

The poll by the Red C agency for the Sunday Business Post showed that 35 percent of voters were impressed by the performance of the new government so far, while 30 percent were unimpressed.

Voters were particularly taken by Kenny’s performance on the international stage, where he has refused to compromise on Ireland’s low 12.5 percent corporate tax rate despite intense pressure from other European Union countries to raise it.

Of those polled, 43 percent said they thought Kenny had represented Ireland well in negotiations abroad, while 22 percent disagreed.

Voters were less satisfied with the government’s policy on banking, with 41 percent saying they were angry that the government was insisting on repaying a large portion of bondholders owed money by nationalised Irish banks.

The government was widely criticised in the media for the decision, with commentators accusing Kenny’s party of reneging on an election promise to inflict more pain on the bondholders despite opposition from fellow euro zone governments.

Kenny’s government said last week that it would recapitalise the Irish banking system to the tune of a further 24 billion euros and restructure state-owned lenders, hoping to draw a line under a legacy of reckless lending that led to economic collapse.

Thirty-eight percent of those polled said the bank bailout and restructuring “was not what I voted for”, while 34 percent disagreed with that statement.

Fine Gael’s coalition partners Labour saw their support fall one percentage point from election day to 18 percent, while left-wing nationalists Sinn Fein were up one point to 11 percent.

The Red C agency questioned 1,001 adults on April 4-6 for the survey.

Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by David Stamp