Fianna Fáil: Local election optimism outweighs European woes

Two candidate strategy in Midlands North West appears to have failed spectacularly

Fianna Fáil  leader Micheál Martin at the Ireland South constituency and local election count in Nemo Rangers Sports Centre in  Cork. Photograph: Provision

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the Ireland South constituency and local election count in Nemo Rangers Sports Centre in Cork. Photograph: Provision

 

The grumbles in Fianna Fáil have started about the party’s performance in the European elections.

But as was the case five years ago, there are encouraging signs for Micheál Martin in the local contests.

The Fianna Fáil two candidate strategy in Midlands North West European Parliament constituency - where it ran Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte - has failed spectacularly.

Neither candidate will be elected, and if the 9per cent share of the vote between the two shown in the RTÉ exit poll is reflected in the final figures, Martin and his team will have to undergo a serious postmortem.

The fact that they made the same mistake at the last European elections in 2014, when two candidates in the same constituency failed to yield a seat, will be used by critics within the party.

Billy Kelleher looks a safer bet in Ireland South this time out and Barry Andrews may make it over the line in Dublin.

Yet the local election results brightened the overall outcome for Fianna Fáil in 2014 and 2019 may prove to be the same, if Martin is left disappointed by the his haul of MEPs.

Based on the exit poll results and initial tallies, Fianna Fáil will maintain its position as the largest party in local government and is set to make inroads where they are most needed: in Dublin, and in winning back support in working class areas from Sinn Féin.

The exit poll figures for the local elections in Dublin put the Green Party on top with 18 per cent of first preference votes, followed by Fine Gael on 15 per cent; Fianna Fáil on 14 per cent; Independents and others on 14 per cent; Sinn Féin on 11 per cent and Labour on 8 per cent.

The margin of error is 3 per cent and local contests are dominated by issues that are specific to individual electoral areas, so a huge health warning applies.

Yet a trend is emerging across some of the Dublin local authorities which has those in Fianna Fáil headquarters eyeing up gains across the capital.

It is still very, very early - there haven’t even been first counts - but the party is looking at picking up seats in Clontarf, Donaghmede, the south west inner city and Finglas on Dublin City Council; in Firhouse and Rathfarnam on South Dublin County County Council and in Dundrum in Dun Laoghaire County Council.

The fact that Fine Gael is under pressure across the capital is further cheering Fianna Fáil, with its main rival haemorrhaging votes to the Green Party. Party sources also say they are encouraged by Sinn Féin seemingly performing poorly.

Elsewhere around the country, Fianna Fáil is confident of holding what it has. Martin largely built his successes in 2014 and at the 2016 general election on the back of votes outside Dublin.

The capital has thus far proven the most difficult terrain in Fianna Fáil’s struggle to recover its standing as the dominant political force in the country.

If, when all the votes are counted, Martin has further improved the party’s standing there, he will have reason to be pleased - even if the strategy for the European elections fails.

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