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Such is the seriousness of the crisis, Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, believes former leader Leo Varadkar may even be tempted to pull the plug his Fine Gael party out of the three-party deal with Mr Martin’s Fianna Fail and the Greens, led by Eamon Ryan. Meanwhile, if the country does go to the polls, he predicted Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou MacDonald would stand a good chance of becoming Ireland’s next Taoiseach – with Ireland likely to face a straight choice between her and Mr Varadkar.

I have no doubt but that Martin is in serious trouble

Ray Bassett

Mr Bassett, who recently published his new book, Ireland and the EU Post Brexit, told Express.co.uk: “I have no doubt but that Martin is in serious trouble.

“He appears to be completely out of touch with the popular mood.

“The opinion polls are so bad and so consistent that they cannot be explained away as something very temporary.”

Consequently Mr Martin’s days as Fianna Fail leader may be numbered, Mr Bassett suggested.

He explained: “The Fianna Fail people I know are in panic mode and while they do not want to be disloyal to a sitting Taoiseach, they may have no alternative but to turn on their leader.

“They are facing an electoral wipeout, especially in Dublin, if they continue down the current path.

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“Martin’s choice of Ministers was disastrous, especially with the Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly, visibly floundering, and now largely withdrawn from public announcements.

“He created several powerful enemies by his selection on the backbenches.”

Mr Martin’s softly, softly approach towards Northern Ireland had also alienated some within his own party, with its staunchly Republican tradition.

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Mr Bassett said: “This has led to some Fianna Fail people moving to support Sinn Fein while others switch to Fine Gael.

“The Taoiseach’s low key style is being contrasted adversely with Leo Varadkar who is perceived as a much better media performer.

“Also it is hard to envisage Martin standing up to either Boris Johnson or Ursula von der Leyen.

“He came back from the European Council on the COVID-19 recovery programme with potentially large debt obligations and very little concrete commitments to balance it.

“The Taoiseach appears to be easily buffetted by events and hence weak.”

Looking to the future, Mr Bassett said: “There is now a real danger of a collapse of this Government as Leo Varadkar sees his own party’s support soar as a direct result of Fianna Fail failures.

“Leo may not want to be too closely associated with Martin for too long if the public mood continues to be hostile. An election could become an attractive alternative.”

Sinn Fein, which took the highest percentage of first-preference votes in the February general election but which was effectively frozen out of coalition talks afterwards by Ireland’s two major parties, was also well-placed to benefit from a future poll, Mr Bassett predicted.

He said: “Mary Lou had a very good election earlier this year.

“Sinn Fein has since managed to position itself as the alternative Administration and given Fianna Fail’s fall from grace, it must have a good chance of heading an Irish Government in the not too distant future.

“It is clear that the next election will be a straight choice between Leo and Mary Lou.”

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