Micheál Martin uses Donnelly signing as signal to senior TDs

Party leader tells senior TDs to bring in running mates

Micheál Martin: “He put it in the context of if we are to get to 55 to 60 seats some people are going to bring in running mates where they didn’t before”

Micheál Martin: “He put it in the context of if we are to get to 55 to 60 seats some people are going to bring in running mates where they didn’t before”

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has used the recruitment of Stephen Donnelly to warn some of his senior TDs that they need to bring in a running mate if the party is to enter government.

Mr Martin announced at the weekly meeting of his parliamentary party that the Wicklow TD was joining Fianna Fáil.

Sources said Mr Martin told TDs and Senators that the party needed two Deputies in certain constituencies if it is to return with a seat haul of up to 60 after the next election.

Fianna Fáil won 44 seats at the last election, although its Dáil voting strength is effectively 43 because Seán Ó Feargháil became Ceann Comhairle. Mr Donnelly will bring it back to 44.

Mr Donnelly joins Pat Casey, the sitting Fianna Fáil TD in Wicklow. Mr Casey said while Mr Donnelly’s recruitment meant it could be more difficult for him to retain his seat, he recognised the need for the party to expand.

Mr Martin made a similar argument to the parliamentary party. “There was a clear message to those lads who are sitting quite comfortably on big votes,” said a TD.

Firm signal

Timmy DooleyBilly KelleherNiall CollinsLimerickLimerick CityGalway West

Other sources also mentioned Tipperary, where Jackie Cahill is the only party TD, as well as Laois and Meath East, where Sean Fleming and Thomas Byrne are the solitary Fianna Fáil TDs respectively.

“He was trying to say to the lads, Pat Casey now has a second person, the rest of ye who don’t and who may have blocked [running mates] in the past may get used to it being a real option,” a source said.

A TD said: “He put it in the context of if we are to get to 55 to 60 seats some people are going to bring in running mates where they didn’t before. He kind of laid down a marker.”

Seat haul

“We are a long way back from 60. And we cannot and will not underestimate holding a lot of the newer TDs. So talk of 60 is bonkers, even talk of 55 is exceptionally ambitious. Holding our own and adding seven or eight would be a very good result.”

Senior Fine Gael sources this week said their voter research showed Fianna Fáil still has an underlying weakness on the economy. One source said it was unlikely Mr Martin’s party would break through to the lower to mid-30 per cent mark in opinion polls anytime soon.