Micheal Martin under pressure as Euro vote looms
O Cuiv says Fianna Fail must secure three seats in EU poll
FIANNA Fail must claim three seats in the European elections if it is to re-establish itself as a major political force, two of the party's most senior figures have claimed.
There is now a real belief within certain sections of the party that Micheal Martin's leadership will be openly questioned unless three seats are secured in May's EU elections.
While Mr Martin has the full support of his front bench, he has come under major pressure from veteran Fianna Fail figures.
The party's former deputy leader, Eamon O Cuiv, said he believed the party was still in a "becalmed" state and its "sustainability" depended significantly on a good result in the European elections.
"A boat that is becalmed in the sea neither goes forward nor backward.
"That is a challenge for us, we have come up to a certain level but we seem to be at the same level.
"The next question is: how do we make the next big jump?" the Galway West TD said in an interview with the Irish Independent.
"I think it would be a huge challenge for the party if we don't secure a seat in every (euro) constituency.
"A seat in the two rural constituencies represents 20pc of the vote, in Dublin it represents 25pc.
"It's absolutely vital that we're in that kind of numbers. And therefore it is a very good barometer as to the sustainability of Fianna Fail as a major political party."
Mr O Cuiv's claims were supported by the party's leader in the European Parliament, Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher.
Mr Gallagher told the Irish Independent that securing anything less than three seats would be "worrying".
"Fianna Fail cannot find ourselves in a situation after the elections where we are left with one or two European seats, absolutely not," he added.
While the party consensus is that seats will be won in Ireland South and Midlands-North West, doubts have been raised about the prospect of the party's Dublin candidate, Mary Fitzpatrick. Polling by other political parties alleges to show Ms Fitzpatrick lagging behind.
The unofficial polls suggest she could potentially be beaten by Fine Gael's Brian Hayes, Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.
Ms Fitzpatrick, a Dublin City councillor, was tasked with introducing Mr Martin ahead of his of keynote speech at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis in Killarney on Saturday night.
Mr O Cuiv agreed that it was particularly important for the party's recovery that Ms Fitzpatrick wins a seat.
"Fianna Fail was always a national party and we don't want to see, for example, not gaining back in Dublin.
"If we are not to gain back in Dublin, it will be a serious challenge for the party in the future," he added.