Fianna Fáil grassroots ‘optimistic’ about outdoing Sinn Féin in local elections

Party members express views on targets, party leaders and potential coalition partners

The upcoming local elections loomed large at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis, with a special “candidates’ corner”, reserved for seminars offering top tips as the party attempts to hold on to its 279 seats.

Discussions included topics such as “Social Media for the Locals: The Final Push”, a canvassing workshop and a strategy session on “Engaging Local Media”.

But can Fianna Fáil remain the party with the largest number of local authority seats?

Leanne Mallon from Kildare South is campaigning for Cillian Keane, the youngest candidate in the Athenry/Oranmore electoral area.


“I think that realistically we should aim for the 200 mark,” she said. The party is not doing well nationally in opinion polls “but I think a lot of our local candidates have a really strong local vote” and that could see them re-elected. I think Sinn Féin will continue to win some seats but if you look at Sinn Féin in Galway County Council they only have one seat in the Ballinasloe area whereas I would say they will look to gain maybe up to five seats.”

John Morgan from Dublin Fingal and president of the Malahide Cricket Club believes “we’ll be lucky to get 240. I hope we hold the whole lot but if you’re going to lose some, you’re going to lose at least 10 per cent.”

Sinn Féin did so badly in the 2019 elections — they lost 79, held 82 — that “naturally enough they are going to swallow up some seats”.

But “they mightn’t do as well as they think. I think people are starting to ask some questions now” about Sinn Féin, particularly on housing.

“If we could build 50,000 houses we’d have builders,” he says. “I mean who are they going to get to build them?”

Brenda Clifford of Dublin West is more optimistic. “We will be aiming for the same if not more, always good to be motivated, always good to build up.”

The former county councillor, who served Dublin West from 2004 and 2009, said Sinn Féin is “the party that doesn’t seem to be able to make up its mind what it wants, what stance it’s actually taking. So I’m hoping people will be realistic and vote for the dependable party.”

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In Fianna Fáil there is a generally positive view towards Fine Gael and its new leader Simon Harris and the potential for an election pact.

“I think Simon has wonderful energy, he has great ideas,” said Martina Kealy from Castleknock in Dublin West. “I’d love to see Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael get in again. I think it’s a question of trust and I think at the end of the day people do trust a large party like Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together.”

She is also enthusiastic about her party leader. “Micheál Martin has always been a safe bet. He’s always been there. He’s very well-spoken, he’s extremely good at putting things into practice and he really does his best.”

“Well I thought the leader of Fine Gael before that was pretty fantastic. I sat with him in the council in 2004,” said Ms Clifford of former taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

A pact “might be a good idea but that depends on the two party leaders”.

On potential coalition with Sinn Féin, Mr Morgan said: “I would say no, but the powers that be will probably say yes. I would be against it. I don’t trust them because of their history. I never liked the way they did things and I can’t just forget what they did up the North, it’s awful.”

Ms Mallen said: “I think that Fianna Fáil want to be a party in power because a party in power can be a party for change and you have to be in government to implement change.”

“From my perspective, absolutely not,” said Ms Clifford,

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times