Fianna Fáil gains confirm party’s recovery gaining momentum

Overall local elections support of 25% establishes party as among big winners in poll

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: Set to lead party into the next general election

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: Set to lead party into the next general election

 

It happened almost by stealth, but Fianna Fáil is arguably the biggest winner in the local elections.

The party has made the biggest gains since the 2011 elections with an advance of more than seven percentage points in support, bringing its overall total to 25 per cent.

That has enabled it to leapfrog beyond Fine Gael to become the largest party at local government level for the first time in a decade. The performance is on a par with 2004 – even the most optimistic Fianna Fáil supporter thought that such a level was not achievable.

Sinn Féin advance The party’s performance has been eclipsed in the headlines by Sinn Féin’s big gains and also by the collapse in

Labour’s vote.

Still, Fianna Fáil has succeeded in reestablishing a meaningful presence in all four Dublin local authorities as well as in other urban centres such as Galway and Limerick. Its overall number of councillors will increase from 235 and it will be the dominant party in at least a dozen local authorities.

The news in the byelections and the European elections is less promising. The party finished second in both byelections but failed to dazzle.

In the Europeans, Fianna Fáil was poised between an as-you-were election and a mediocre one. With votes being counted last night, Brian Crowley was its only certainty but a party in rebuilding mode also needs a win in Midlands North West.

Mary Fitzpatrick ran a strong campaign in Dublin. While the party has regained seats in key areas around the city, it still has its work cut out to re-establish a presence in the city.

Sinn Féin now presents a real threat in some constituencies, not least Dublin West where Paul Donnelly must now be considered a contender for a Dáil seat.

John McGuinness made some sounds about the leadership question yesterday but, in truth, his view is very much a minority one. Micheál Martin will lead the party into the next election and beyond; there is no challenger on the horizon at present.

Given the routing it took in 2011, Fianna Fáil will present the outcome of this weekend as strong proof it is in recovery.

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