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Wednesday 7 December 2016

O Cuiv and FF leader clash over contesting Aras race

Sam Smyth and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 30/08/2011 | 05:00

FIANNA Fail deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv will continue to urge colleagues to run a presidential candidate despite his leader Micheal Martin recommending the party not contest the election.

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Fianna Fail carried out opinion polls to assess support for former cabinet minister Mary Hanafin, as well as MEP Brian Crowley and Mr O Cuiv. But it found all three would fail dismally to win the election.

And Mr Martin told senior Fianna Fail figures yesterday there would be no long-term benefit to the party from an unlikely victory anyway.

Mr O Cuiv was the lone voice on the party's six-member sub-committee on the presidential election to say that Fianna Fail should run a candidate.

No vote was taken and the sub-committee's recommendation not to run a candidate was expected to be carried at a full meeting of the parliamentary party tomorrow.

However, opposition to the move from some TDs and senators, including Mr O Cuiv, and criticism of how the leadership has dealt with the issue is expected at the meeting.

Mr Martin was not asked yesterday to explain his botched approach to Gay Byrne or the acrimonious withdrawal of Mr Crowley.

The prospect of Fianna Fail's 400,000 voters being asked to support an Independent candidate favoured by the party leaders was raised.

But no debate on this option is expected until the formal decision not to run an internal candidate has been taken.

Notably, some members of the parliamentary party have signalled support for Independent candidate Mary Davis.

Mr Martin said that even if a Fianna Fail internal candidate won the election, it would not materially benefit the party.

Mr Martin said a victory would just remind voters of EU/IMF bailouts, distressed mortgages and all the negatives from its time in government.

Analysis

The remaining members of the committee, environment spokesman Timmy Dooley, justice spokesman Dara Calleary, party whip Sean O Fearghail and Seanad leader Darragh O'Brien, all agreed with Mr Martin's analysis.

Mr O Cuiv was still adamant about running a candidate, saying the party had to move on from its election defeat.

Fianna Fail's internal polling, conducted in July and August, showed Mr Crowley or Ms Hanafin would get about 10-12pc of the vote and are doing better than Mr O Cuiv.

Mr Crowley was strongest in his Munster base, while Ms Hanafin had a more even spread.

Today, Noel Gregory will endorse the Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins.

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