FF recovery not enough to ease pressure on Micheal Martin
FIANNA Fail is set to become the biggest party in local government, but its performance was not enough to prevent another public squabble over Micheal Martin's leadership.
After receiving a hammering at the last local election – when it was in government – the party made a remarkable comeback and is in line to take 25pc of the vote, or almost 250 seats.
The result would see it finish 2pc ahead of Fine Gael in the polls.
But even before the ballots were counted, the party was again fighting over Mr Martin's performance.
Fianna Fail rebel John McGuinness yesterday suggested a possible leadership heave against Mr Martin because the party had not made "significant gains".
Questions were also raised by Senator Averil Power about the party's performance in Dublin, where it lost a number of seats to Sinn Fein.
"It's very sad to see decent hard-working candidates lose out because the party vote wasn't there," she said. "Fianna Fail needs to work harder at national level for Dubliners."
Mr Martin said he was "very surprised" by Mr McGuinness's comments and said he did not agree with Ms Power that the party was struggling in Dublin.
"All the deputies I have spoken to across the country have been very pleased with the very significant progress we have made," he added.
However, Mr McGuinness insisted the party needed to change direction despite being on course to take the majority of local election seats.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman said the party had not made "significant gains" across the county and he would raise questions about the party's leadership next week.
Speaking on Kilkenny radio station KCLR, Mr McGuinness said: "We have to question our policies and we have to question our performances in the Dail. We have to question the leadership of the party – and that's what I will be doing next week."
But Mr McGuinness's call for Mr Martin's head was not echoed by parliamentary party colleagues.
Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins dismissed his comments, saying: "You can always rely on John McGuinness to ruin a good moment."
Another senior Fianna Fail figure said the PAC chairman had issues with every Fianna Fail leader he served under. "He would fight with himself if he was the leader of the party," the source said.
"He talks about what direction we should be going in but if you ask him he couldn't tell you," another source said.
Health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the party should focus on the results of the election and not distract itself with leadership changes.
"For anybody to undermine the efforts of the thousands of people who worked for the party over the last number of weeks is very unfortunate," Mr Kelleher said.
Mr McGuinness first raised the prospects of becoming the party's leader when Mr Martin asked him to contest the European elections.
While Fianna Fail has been successful in the local elections, it will likely only return one seat in the European Parliament, with Brian Crowley in Ireland South.
Mary Fitzpatrick's disappointing run in Dublin will put more pressure on Mr Martin's leadership.
The national resurgence has been greatly assisted by the return of the Fianna Fail 'old guard', but many feel reminders of the past are stopping the party moving forward.
Former minister Mary Hanafin, along with former TDs Sean Haughey and Charlie O'Connor, all successfully contested seats in Dublin.
Former Kerry TD Tom McEllistrim, Kildare TD Sean Power and Sligo TD Eamon Scanlon were also elected.