Fianna Fáil to discuss options for presidency

Mon, Aug 22, 2011, 01:00

A COMMITTEE formed by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to explore the party’s options for the presidential election will hold its first meeting within the next week.

The six-person committee was formed on the last week before the summer recess but has yet to meet. In the interim, Mr Martin approached the veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne with an offer of Fianna Fáil support for his nomination and campaign, had he chosen to run as an independent candidate.

In the event, Mr Byrne decided not to seek a nomination, a decision that has created some internal criticism within the party of Mr Martin’s judgment in his dealings with the broadcaster.

The committee comprises Mr Martin; deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív; Timmy Dooley TD; Dara Calleary TD; party whip Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD; and Senator Daragh O’Brien.

One senior party member, speaking on the basis of anonymity, said yesterday the Gay Byrne episode had probably weakened Mr Martin’s hand on the presidential election.

“He is not in favour of running an internal candidate but it’s more likely that we will have a Fianna Fáil candidate, be it Brian Crowley or Mary Hanafin,” said the member.

The parliamentary party is divided but the majority of TDs and Senators who have spoken publicly on the issue have backed Mr Crowley, the MEP for the South constituency.

“The committee has to report before the Fianna Fáil parliamentary meeting on September 12th. Its recommendation isn’t binding. In fact, the bottom line is that the leader will have the final say,” said the member.

“The way it has gone, many of us see it as more likely that we will run our own candidate.” Recent polling has suggested Mr Crowley would win massive support in Munster. However, his support levels are much lower elsewhere.

Separately, Fingal Councillor David McGuinness has said he is interested in seeking the Fianna Fáil nomination to contest the Dublin West byelection.

Mr McGuinness (24), is based in the working class area of Corduff in Dublin West and bucked the national trend when winning a council seat in the 2009 local elections. He was the party’s second candidate in the general election alongside the late Brian Lenihan but polled poorly, winning several hundred votes.

Other names that have been mentioned as possible candidates include former Fianna Fáil deputy leader Ms Hanafin and former TD for Dublin North Michael Kennedy, some of whose Swords base was transferred to Dublin West prior to the last election. Ms Hanafin was not available for comment yesterday. It is unlikely that a member of the Lenihan family will seek the nomination to contest the seat left vacant by Mr Lenihan, the former minister for finance.