Hopeful Micheál Martin denies he is on the ropes

Fianna Fáil is speaking with one voice as party leader launches manifesto for European elections

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: “I’m not going to comment on unsubstantiated stories. My entire focus is on the campaign”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: “I’m not going to comment on unsubstantiated stories. My entire focus is on the campaign”

Thu, May 1, 2014, 01:00

”Hope for us all.” Full marks to Fianna Fáil for optimism.

From the slogan we could see – displayed across the top table at the launch of their European election manifesto yesterday – that appeared to be the message. But the room was crowded, and we were sitting at the back. When the man in front shifted slightly, more was revealed.

”Rope For Us All.”

Inspired. We thought slogans couldn’t get any better since Fine Gael hosted the European People’s Party congress in Dublin earlier this year. ”Believe in People.”
Sure, you’d have to. But “Rope for Us All” is better.

As we pondered the meaning, Micheál Martin, surrounded by all but one of his candidates, got down to business. Missing was long-serving MEP Brian Crowley, the only politician on Micheál’s ticket assured of a seat. But Brian, already streets ahead in the opinion polls for Ireland South, decided to skip the launch and go campaigning in Tipperary.

The atmosphere in the Royal Hibernian Academy was less strained than it had been the night before, when the Labour Party hosted a reception for president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.

But Micheál was overshadowed by the entertainment highlight of the evening: a toe-curling display of forced bonhomie between Eamon Gilmore and outgoing MEP Phil Prendergast, who had shocked colleagues by claiming her boss possessed the political finesse of a cantering elephant. Happily, all breakages were cleaned up by the time Fianna Fáil arrived into the art gallery for their event.

Smiling with their leader behind “Rope for Us All” were four hopefuls: the veteran Donegal MEP Pat The Cope Gallagher, who is contesting the Midlands North West constituency with Meath-based senator, Thomas Byrne; Kieran “Pylons” Hartley from Waterford, who has the thankless task of running with the vote vacuuming Crowley and Mary Fitzpatrick, who is in with a shout of a seat in Dublin.

Mary’s unique selling point is that she is the northside woman Bertie’s Drumcondra mafia couldn’t elbow off the political pitch.

The newcomers put on their dynamic faces as Micheál set out Fianna Fáil’s stall. As he spoke, a large TV to his right played the party’s campaign videos on continuous loop, without sound.

This made it difficult to concentrate on his speech, as the words competed with his silent image on the screen saying something entirely different, before cutting away to shots of the candidates talking to ordinary people in a dynamic way.

Pat The Cope chose not to take to the streets. Instead, he was filmed sitting in an office doing a statesmanlike piece to camera.

As he expounded away silently, it was Micheál’s voice which filled the room, revealing Pat’s hitherto unknown powers of ventriloquism. Fianna Fáil is well got in Europe, explained Micheál, before confusingly veering off to talk about supermarkets.