Martin says he would be satisfied if FF wins three seats in European elections
Party faces a challenge to consolidate its 2014 success in local elections, says FF leader
Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin TD voting in Ballinlough, Cork with his family Mary, daughter Aoibhe and son Micheal. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he would be satisfied if the party were to win three seats in the European election given it would mark a threefold increase on what it won back in 2014 when the party’s only Euro success was Brian Crowley.
“We’re coming from having won just one seat back in the last European elections and I’ve been very clear about this in the past – we would be hoping and our target would be to get a seat in each constituency and that remains the target today,” said Mr Martin.
Speaking in Cork after voting at St Anthony’s Boys School in Ballinlough in Cork South Central, Mr Martin said that Brendan Smith has put in a very strong campaign in the last two weeks in Ireland Midlands North West and he believed he stood a real chance of taking a seat.
“I think we are in with a good chance potentially of two seats in Ireland Southbecause of the geographic mix and the degree the divide has held in terms of the Fianna Fáil vote – Billy Kelleher is coming from a strong Cork base and Malcolm Byrne has put in a strong campaign – it’s a tall order but it’s possible.”
Mr Martin said that Dublin was a highly competitive constituency because of the large number of candidates running for four seats, but he believed Barry Andrews was a strong candidate with a good appeal across the entire constituency.
And he said the party was hoping to consolidate its fine performance in the 2014 local elections when it won the largest number of seats – returning 267 councillors – but he conceded that might prove a challenge given the number of poll-topping councillors who have since become TDs or senators.
“We’re conscious of the difficulty of replacing 31 poll-toppers from the last time – people like Lisa Chambers and Aidan Davitt – 31 of them ended up in the Dáil or Seanad and that’s a lot of people to try and replace and they’re spread all around the country,” he said.
“But we’ve conscious of that internally in the party and we’ve sought to move people into play in those constituencies so we can consolidate our gains in 2014 and build on them but it’s going to be difficult particularly when you have boundary changes as has happened here in Cork,” he said.
Mr Martin said he was conscious of the large number of first-time councillors who had opted not to run again, citing the case in Cork City Council where several first time councillors chose not to go before the electorate again and he said more needed to be done to encourage people into local politics.
“Around the country, some 36 per cent of our 415 candidates are new candidates and 21 per cent are women which is better than the last time out but we still need to increase the number of women – there is an issue generally with local government and the attractiveness of it and I am concerned about that.”
Mr Martin said there was no doubt but that people in certain sectors such as financial services and life sciences were in some cases prohibited from running for political office and in some cases discouraged from running from public office which reduced the range of experienced people going for office.
“There is no doubt but that in financial services or the life sciences if they put their head about the parapet and t say they’d like to be a councillor, it could be a career limiting move because it would be frowned upon and it applies to all parties and that’s bad overall for politics
“We still have a lot of young people coming people but in terms of the diversity of councils, you are looking at a lot retired, self -employed people who have flexibility in their lives to actually do it – there needs to be more flexibility particularly for women for whom all-day meetings can be a problem,” he said.