Martin says FF leadership does not hinge on results

Leader says Fianna Fáil rot in Dublin area started before he assumed role

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin canvassing outside Tara St Dart station in Dublin for the party’s candidate in the European elections Mary Fitzpatrick. Photograph: Frank Miller /The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin canvassing outside Tara St Dart station in Dublin for the party’s candidate in the European elections Mary Fitzpatrick. Photograph: Frank Miller /The Irish Times.

 

Micheál Martin has said he does not believe Fianna Fáil’s performance in Dublin in next month’s local and European elections will have a bearing on his role as party leader.

Mr Martin’s former cabinet colleagues Bertie Ahern and Mary Hanafin have both recently described the party’s standing in Dublin in opinion polls as “brutal” but Mr Martin insisted the rot had not set in under his leadership.

Asked if failing to win a seat in the Dublin European constituency would reflect badly on his performance, Mr Martin replied that he was fully aware of the challenge facing the party and its candidate Mary Fitzpatrick.

“We lost the seat in 2009, and people need to keep this in perspective, at a time when we were arguably stronger as a party,” he said.

“The decline of the party in Dublin didn’t happen in the last number of years. It has been coming for quite some time. If you look at our strength across the city, we’ve only got 18 councillors.”

Asked if he believed his role as leader would be at stake over the party’s election performance, he replied: “No, it’s not.”

Mr Martin said the findings of two opinion polls published on the same weekend had differed by “6 or 7 per cent” and that he did not agree with Mr Ahern’s assessment that the party was in a “brutal” positon in Dublin.

“I have a different perspective,” Mr Martin said, adding that the important poll would be the elections themselves.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil’s starting position in Dublin was “a lot weaker than it used to be” after the 2004 and 2009 local and European elections and 2011 general election.

“The simple reality is that we are starting well behind the others but in spite of that I’m extremely happy at the candidates we are offering.”

Asked about Mr Ahern’s comments, Ms Fitzpatrick said she had not read them but that they had been relayed to her.

“I’m not brutal,” she said. “If [MR AHERN]wants to give me his vote in this election I’ll happily take it. I’ll take anybody’s first preference vote in this election.”

She said Dublin had suffered without a Fianna Fáil representative in Europe. “We have had two Government MEPs who have acted as ambassadors for the Government. We have had one MEP who is a left socialist marginalised in an almost irrelevant group in the European parliament.”

Mr Martin and Ms Fitzpatrick were speaking as Fianna Fáil published its election proposals for the Dublin region.

They include a pledge to mandate its Dublin councillors to vote for a decrease in the property tax; a committment to use 80 per cent of the revenue generated by the tax for local services; a pledge not to support the implementation of water charges while the security and quality of supply in Dublin is in doubt ; a levy on vacant and derelict sites in the capital to encourage development; and a new commercial rates system for Dublin featuring an inability to pay clause.

Mr Martin said Dublin’s councils should be used to deliver social and economic progress for communities and that, at present, there was no vision for the development of Dublin.

“This is an election where the excuse of blaming others is completely useless to Fine Gael and Labour. They have been in full control of local government in Dublin for 10 years,” he said.

Mr Martin said the party was fielding 52 local election candidates in the capital and that 52 per cent of these were new and “essentially 30 per cent” were female. The elections can begin the “recovery and regeneration of the party” in Dublin, Mr Martin said.

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