Monday 27 February 2017

Micheál Martin: 'Micheál Martin has always put the country first and FF will nominate me for Taoiseach'

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

FIANNA Fail leader Micheál Martin confirmed that his party will nominate him for Taoiseach when the new Dail meets.

Mr Martin admitted that the 2016 General Election results were "absolutely incredible" for the party which so many had written off just five years ago.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is surrounded by well wishers at the count centre at City Hall, Cork
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is surrounded by well wishers at the count centre at City Hall, Cork

He said he now expects Fianna Fail to win more than 40 seats - though he refused to speculate on precise numbers given multiple cliffhanger counts underway nationwide.

He admitted the Fianna Fail gains were beyond his most optimistic expectation though he stressed every party candidate took to the campaign to win.

But he bluntly refused to comment on the prospects of a Fianna Fail-Fine Gael deal if the 32nd Dail has no other means of delivering stable Government.

"It is too early to talk about that," he said.

"What I can say is that Micheál Martin has always put the country first," he said.

"The country will always be first as far as Micheál Martin is concerned. We proved that in 2009 when we took decisions that were electorally and politically costly but in terms of the country they were the right things to do."

"That has happened in the past and that is what is going to happen again."

"The country comes first in all our deliberations in this regard."

Read more: Fionnan Sheahan: The people have spoken - now it's up to the politicians to translate what they said

Mr Martin stressed that his party will stand for fairness, decency and stability - and will demand that of any Government that emerges.

"When the new Dail meets, Fianna Fail will nominate me for Taoiseach. After that we will just have to see what happens."

Mr Martin insisted that the ultimate breakdown of seat numbers in the 32nd Dail may still vary greatly - and other combinations for Government could emerge.

"What Fianna Fail fought this campaign on was getting fairness back into Irish politics and getting this Fine Gael-Labour Government out of office."

"We don't want to go into Government with Fine Gael or with Sinn Fein - let's wait until we know the final destination of the seats because I think a lot of centre-ground people are going to be elected as well."

"We have done that (listened to the Irish people). We have worked very hard over the past five years to listen to what the Irish people had to say."

Read more: 'Given a choice between stability and chaos, people wanted chaos: Seven things we know so far

"We will now listen very carefully to the message they spelled out at the ballot box."

He arrived to a rapturous reception from the party faithful at Cork City Hall.

Reduced to just 20 Dail seats after the disastrous 2011 General Election, his party are now hoping to win 40 plus seats as both Fine Gael and Labour are on course for massive losses.

The Cork South Central TD is set to be elected alongside his running mate, Michael McGrath TD, in what many had dubbed 'the Constituency of Death'.

But the former Foreign Affairs Minister is also poised to see Fianna Fail make major gains nationwide after what one party official described as "a spectacular campaign."

He was cheered to the echo as he arrived at City Hall shortly before 4pm - and received a celebratory hug from his wife, Mary, amid party supporters delighted by imminent electoral gains.

"It has been a very good campaign for Fianna Fail - there is no doubt about that," he said.

"I think everyone in Fianna Fail felt energised by the campaign and today is all about those party volunteers who worked so hard, knocked on doors and helped with the renewal of the party."

"They deserve the credit for the success of this campaign."

Mr Martin warned it was far too early to speculate about what precisely shape the next Government will take.

"We will have to wait and see for what the precise seat numbers (won) are," he said.

Mr Martin echoed the warning of Fianna Fail director of elections, Billy Kelleher, that there is no point speculating until all constituencies have reported and elected their TDs to the 32nd Dail.

"It is too early (for that kind of talk)," he said.

"What I can say is that I believe Fianna Fail's message resonated with Irish voters and we believe we have fulfilled our goal which is to get this Government out of office," he said.

"We will have to wait and see what happens next."

Mr Martin refused to comment about ongoing speculation about a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail arrangement for Government.

However, it has emerged that many Fine Gael and Labour seats may be lost because of what one Sinn Fein tallyman called "a Fianna Fail revenge vote."

Tallyman and Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Chris O'Leary, said it was noticeable how many Fianna Fail voters refused to vote for preferences beyond their own candidates.

"In a lot of cases, they didn't mark the paper after they had voted for Fianna Fail candidates,", he said.

"There wasn't a third, fourth or fifth preference to transfer."

"These are votes and transfers that may ultimately prove crucial for the Government parties. But those votes just won't be there to transfer."

"In many ways you could call it a Fianna Fail revenge vote - its almost as if Fianna Fail voters wanted to settle scores for what happened in 2011

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