Martin faces crucial meeting tomorrow

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin faces a crucial meeting of his parliamentary party meeting tomorrow morning, during which his supporters say he is prepared to face down any remaining internal opposition to his presidential election strategy.

The issue has created some differences between Mr Martin and his deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív, although a meeting between the pair this afternoon was described as “constructive and cordial” by a party spokesman.

The party has already decided not to field an internal candidate and Mr Martin does not want Fianna Fail to facilitate the nomination of any candidate, but Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú remains keen to run as Independent and has asked the leader to allow the party’s
parliamentarians a free vote.

Mr Ó Murchú held a meeting with Mr Martin this morning.

Speaking to the The Irish Times after the meeting, which began at 11.30am and lasted for around an hour, the Senator described the talks as "productive and friendly".

Mr Ó Murchú claims to have the backing of 10 Independent TDs and Senators, as well as 10 Fianna Fáil parliamentarians. He wants to run as an Independent candidate, as the party has already decided it will not field a Fianna Fáil candidate.

Earlier, the Senator told RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny show he would not take a salary if elected to the Áras.

A meeting of the parliamentary party will take place tomorrow.

A number of younger TDs urged Mr Martin over the weekend to confront his critics at a tomorrow's meeting and ensure that Fianna Fáil stays completely out of the presidential race. “This is doing the party huge damage and Micheál has to kill it off tomorrow. If that means losing his deputy leader and a few Senators, so be it,” said one frontbench member last night.

At a six-hour party meeting last Thursday Mr Ó Cuív threatened to resign as deputy leader if Mr Martin went ahead with a motion that would have prevented Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators from nominating any presidential candidate.

The issue was deferred until tomorrow and Mr Martin has been making efforts over the weekend to see if a solution can be found.

Mr Martin will meet Mr Ó Cuív later today to see if their differences can be resolved but there was no indication last night a compromise was in sight.

“The majority of the parliamentary party don’t want Labhrás to contest the office and that feeling is now stronger after the entry of Martin McGuinness into the race,” said one Martin supporter.

The fear is that the Senator would get a fraction of the vote that Mr McGuinness will win.

There is also a fear that if some Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators are allowed to nominate Mr Ó Murchú, others will come under pressure to nominate Senator David Norris. The expectation is that Mr Martin will try to shut down the controversy tomorrow by putting the issue to a vote at the parliamentary party if a compromise cannot be found.

Mr Norris’s renewed campaign to get on the ballot paper will suffer a blow if Fianna Fáil decides not to allow TDs and Senators to nominate a candidate. While a number of left-wing TDs confirmed yesterday that they would be supporting his nomination, he will probably need some Fianna Fáil support to get a nomination.

Six TDs who originally supported Mr Norris before he dropped out of the election are likely to continue that support. These are Maureen O’Sullivan and John Crown, who confirmed they would be nominating Mr Norris when contacted yesterday, and Catherine Murphy, Stephen Donnelly, Mick Wallace and Seán Barrett who were unavailable for comment.

Independent TDs who once supported Mr Norris but no longer do include Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath, Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle and Waterford TD John Halligan.

The Norris campaign has received a boost with the decision of some left-wing TDs to support his nomination. People Before Profit TDs Joan Collins and Richard Boyd Barrett have both committed to facilitating Mr Norris’ nomination as have Socialist Party TDs Joe Higgins and Clare Daly.

Ms Collins told The Irish Times they would nominate Mr Norris as there was “no real left alternative” remaining.

Sinn Féin candidate Martin McGuinness launched his campaign in Dublin yesterday, saying that the institutions of the State such as An Garda Síochána would have his 100 per cent support.