Leader of Sinn Fein Mary Lou McDonald

The left-wing Irish republican party Sinn Fein is neck and neck for first place, ahead of next week’s election in the Republic of Ireland.

A poll conducted by Red C published today put the party, historically associated with the IRA, on 24 percent alongside the centre-right party Fianna Fáil. The current largest party, Fine Gael, is in third place with 21 percent.

Polling over the election has shown support for Sinn Fein growing over recent weeks, amid claims that the major parties have resorted to an ‘auction election’ campaign to woo voters.

Such a result would grant the party an extra 16 seats in the Irish Parliament, with 39; that would be their best result since 1923.

However, both main parties have ruled out any potential coalition deal with Sinn Fein after the election.

Irish voters will go to the polls next Saturday to decide who should govern the country for the next four years.