Fianna Fáil aims to double Dáil seats at election

Strategists target two seats in some constituencies, hoping for almost 40 in total

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin. Party strategists believe they can win almost 40 seats at the next election - double their current standing of 20. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin. Party strategists believe they can win almost 40 seats at the next election - double their current standing of 20. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil has identified a number of constituencies where it believes it can win two seats as it seeks to double its Dáil numbers at the next election.

All of the constituencies targeted for two seats are outside Dublin, with the party hoping to consolidate its vote in the capital by running tight, one-candidate tickets.

Party strategists believe they can win almost 40 seats at the next election - double their current standing of 20.

As well as holding two seats in Cork South-Central – where leader Micheál Martin and finance spokesman Michael McGrath are sitting TDs – a number of other sitting deputies will be under pressure to bring in running mates.

These include high-profile TDs such as Éamon Ó Cúiv in Galway West, Timmy Dooley in Clare and John McGuinness in Carlow-Kilkenny, as well as TDs in counties where Fianna Fáil would have traditionally been strong.

In Carlow-Kilkenny, former TD Bobby Aylward is expected to be the party’s candidate in the byelection due to be held in May and is ranked among the early frontrunners.

He would be expected to hold his seat at the general election if he takes Phil Hogan’s vacant Dáil seat.

Party sources claim Donegal and Kerry, both of which see a pair of three-seat constituencies merging to form one five-seater, are also possibilities for two seats.

However, former ministers Mary Coughlan and John O’Donoghue are not expected to contest for the Dáil nominations.

In Donegal, sitting Donegal North East TD Charlie McConalogue is expected to be joined on the ticket by another candidate based around Letterkenny.

In Kerry, party strategists are still hopeful All-Ireland winning footballer and Irish Times columnist Darragh O’Sé will run with another candidate, likely to be a county councillor.

High-profile candidate

Fianna Fáil’s constituencies committee has also approached a number of high-profile candidates it hopes will strongly contest for Dáil seats, although they have not been confirmed to date.

The party hopes to have the vast majority of its selection conventions completed by the time of its Ard Fheis, which takes place at the end of April in Dublin.

However, it is claimed former TDs are causing disruption in some areas, slowing down the process across the country. “The organisation is stifled by former members,” said one source.

In the capital, party sources claim they can win as many as eight seats, but virtually rule out a seat in the three city constituencies – Dublin Central, Dublin South-Central and Dublin Bay South.

Contentious conventions

A number of contentious selection conventions are coming up, with Dublin West scheduled for two weeks’ time. There has been no Fianna Fáil TD in Dublin since the death of Brian Lenihan in 2011.

Fingal councillors David McGuinness (who ran for the Dáil on three occasions) and Jack Chambers will contest the convention to try to retake Mr Lenihan’s old Dublin West seat for Fianna Fáil.

Another keenly contested convention will be Dublin Bay North, with Senator Averil Power, former minster Seán Haughey and Cllr Deirdre Heney vying for a place on the ticket.

In Dún Laoghaire, Mary Hanafin is seeking the nomination, as is Cormac Devlin, a local party councillor.

Former minister John Curran is expected to run again in Dublin Mid West.