Micheál Martin expresses satisfaction with party’s performance

Fianna Fáil leader confident of two European seats and still in the running for Dublin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has expressed satisfaction with the party's performance in both local elections, where it looks set to increase its number of councillors and the European elections where he predicted the party would take two seats and remained in contention for a third.

Mr Martin said he believed the RTE exit poll which put the party at 22 per cent in the European elections would give it a chance of taking seats in all three constituencies and he was also refusing to accept that the party was out of the running in the Dublin West by-election.

He said the party was looking like holding its percentage share of the vote on the 2009 local elections and was 5 per cent up on the 2011 General Election which marked a historic low for the party particularly in Dublin where only the late Brian Lenihan won a seat for the party.

“The clear benchmark for us is the 2011 general election which was nearly a wipe-out election for us - we lost every seat in Dublin bar the late Brian Lenihan and in some areas of Dublin, because of cumulative local election results, we had no counsellors,” he said.


"Now it's looking like we'll go to 11 seats on Dublin City Council, possibly even more - the real strategy for us in these local elections, as well as holding council seats, was to get new people in and get us into a challenge position in each Dail constituency and we've achieved that.

“Admittedly, it’s only tallies and counts have still to happen but we now have a critical mass built up in key constituencies where we think we can make gains in the next general election and that’s hugely important for us given there are constituencies where we have no Dail deputies.”

Mr Martin said he was particularly pleased with the party's performance in Dublin but also in other major urban centres such as Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway where the party looks set to increase its representation in some cases from just sole representatives.

“In the last general election, our urban footprint was poor and that had developed over time even prior to 2011 - we had just one seat in Limerick and one seat in Waterford- I think we’ve arrested that and got a new urban footprint which is critical for the party.”

Asked about the issue of Mary Hannafin opting to run in Blackrock in Co Dublin against the wishes of the party after a mix-up over nominations , Mr Martin refused to be drawn other than to express satisfaction that both Kate Feeney and Ms Hannafin would take seats

“That has been referred to the rules and procedures committee - Kate Feeney did very well and we’re very pleased with that and Mary Hannafin will also take a seat so - it’s not new in politics when a row happens, a new dynamic develops and that has proven to be the case here again.

Mr Martin admitted that the party was facing a challenge to win the Dublin West by-election but he said that much would depend on transfers from Independent David Hall and Fine Gael's Senator Eamon Coghlan if they were to pip Sinn Fein or the Socialist Party to the seat

"We have picked Fine Gael voters on the canvass who told us they were going to give our candidate David McGuinness transfers because of the Sinn Fein threat so you don't know how they will transpire," he said.

Mr Martin paid tribute to Brian Crowley for his strong performance yet again in Ireland South in the European elections and he believed that the party would also take a seat in Ireland North West and he was still hopeful that Mary Fitzpatrick would come through in Dublin.

"I think we have two seats. The Dublin one is all to play for - the tallies are poor as the focus has been on the locals and a lot will depend on who is ahead of whom in Dublin and the Brian Hayes figure will be very interesting - our feedback is he may not be as strong as the exit poll suggests."

Mr Martin acknowledged that the elections were disastrous for the Labour Party but he didn't believe that it would prompt the party to consider leaving the Coalition government.

“Is it the end of the coalition? I don’t know the answer to that - I think people will hang in there because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate - it’s a serious situation for the Labour Party because Sinn Fein has cannibalised Labour and it’s not that simple to get that support back .

“That said, it is a local election and a European election so the general election will be somewhat different - we have to put that caveat in but politics is very volatile at the moment and we are dealing with a more fragmented electoral landscape,” he said.

Asked if he was concerned about the surge in support for Sinn Fein and its implications for Fianna Fáil as the main party of opposition, Mr Martin said that Sinn Fein was coming from a very different base and took a very different approach to issues to his party.

“Sinn Fein and ourselves are coming at this from different starting points - Sinn Fein have a very low electoral base to begin well and they obviously have done well today but we’ve gained about 5 per cent on our general election performance and we are now in a good position.

“Sinn Fein are doing what to some extent Labour did before the last general election and we know where that got us. Labour opposed every single measure in the two budgets before they came to power which were essential in terms of getting the fiscal situation right - they opposed everything.

“We are not always looking over our shoulder in terms of other parties - we are very clearly occupying the centre ground and we are not going to pretend there are easy solutions to everything so we are in different political narrative to Sin Fein where are at,” he added.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times