Rival parties plan to isolate FF's leader during election
Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30
Fianna Fáil's rivals are to step up efforts to "marginalise" the party and its leader, Micheál Martin, during the upcoming General Election campaign as they seek to portray him as increasingly irrelevant.
Political opponents are preparing to seize on the perceived lack of direction from Mr Martin, presenting him as a leader who would prefer to remain in opposition.
This comes as Mr Martin spent the weekend of the party's Ard Fheis insisting that Fianna Fáil would not enter into a coalition with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin - leaving many party members unsure as to how he hopes to be part of the next government.
Sources within both Sinn Féin and Fine Gael have told the Irish Independent that they will seek to marginalise Mr Martin as irrelevant.
As it approaches its own Ard Fheis next weekend, Fine Gael will play up the idea that there is no alternative government to the current Coalition.
"Micheál Martin had to be radical to get Fianna Fáil back into the game. The only radical thing he has done is make them redundant," said a source.
Fine Gael strategists believe that targeting Gerry Adams as the major political threat is the next logical step, with Mr Martin being pushed into third place in the debate.
Mr Adams himself said: "By ruling Fianna Fáil out of Government, Micheál Martin has made himself entirely irrelevant to the General Election."
Mr Martin is coming under pressure to re-visit his insistence on not sharing power with Fine Gael as former deputy leader and minister Mary O'Rourke called for "a more pragmatic stance" to be taken.
"The era of the big parties taking all is long gone. We need to keep options open," she told the Irish Independent.
While praising Mr Martin's performance at the Ard Fheis, she also urged him to take a more pragmatic view of potential coalition partners.
This followed strong comments by TD John McGuinness along the same lines, which were echoed by others.
There were also positive messages on the Fine Gael side on keeping its options open. Waterford TD John Deasy said if stability could only be achieved by coalition with Fianna Fáil, then that should be done.
Former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery said his preference was for the current coalition - or a variant of it with like-minded Independents - to be returned.
However, if that doesn't happen, "then Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should be a fall-back in the interests of national security".