FF concentrates on securing Dublin seat

Party’s hopes centre on Dublin city councillor Mary Fitzpatrick

Arthur Beesley reports from Fianna Fáil's launch of the party’s European Election Manifesto entitled: ‘A Europe for Us All’. Video: Bryan O'Brien

Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 17:35

There may well be rumblings in Fianna Fáil about the party leadership but Mícheál Martin was having none of it today at launch of his European campaign.

The focus was on the election itself, he insisted, and he would not be distracted by off-the-record briefings about his leadership. Still, it clear where the challenge lies, and it is an appreciable one at that.

Fianna Fáil’s prime task in the first national contest since its devastating defeat in the 2011 general election is to take back a European seat in Dublin, where it has no TDs.

The party’s hopes centre on Dublin city councillor Mary Fitzpatrick, who had a hard time of it when Bertie Ahern was supreme. While there may yet be some purchase in that for Fitzpatrick, she must overcome two hurdles.

One is the legacy of Fianna Fáil’s overarching role in the economic and banking crash. The other is unavoidable fact that there are but three seats to compete for. Martin made the point that Fianna Fáil last took a European seat in Dublin in 2004, when four seats were in contention.

This makes things especially difficult for Fitzpatrick, who must tap into voter disaffection with costly budget meaures while hoping they can find it within themselves to vote Fianna Fáil again.

If Fianna Fáil’s unedifying role in the debacle is not forgotten, the big question is whether it is forgiven.

“The focus now if you really want to know is not as much on Fianna Fáil,” said Martin. “It’s on Fine Gael and Labour and the broken promises they made.”

The party is essentially in competition with a constellation of anti-Government campaigners - including Sinn Féin, Independents and the hard left - who are as vocal in their opposition to Fianna Fáil as they are to the Coalition.

Although Fianna Fáil was confident enough that Donegal-based MEP Pat “the Cope” Gallagher would take one of four seats in Midlands-North-West, recent polling suggests his running mate Senator Thomas Byrne might fare better.

Thus Gallagher is in no mood to hang back, shaking his head in defiance of a reporter’s question as to whether Midlands-North-West would be split between him and Byrne. Martin made clear that will not happen.

He was equally clear that any attempt to persuade South MEP Brian Crowley to share his huge personal vote with running mate Kieran Hartley would be fruitless.

The best Hartley can probably hope for is to set himself up for a Dáil run in Waterford in the next general election.

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