Friday 26 December 2014

Martin needs FF to win EU seat in Dublin

JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

Published 20/04/2014 | 02:30

Michael Martin, TD, leader of Fianna Fail pictured at the National Ploughing Championships at Rathineska, Stradbally, Co. Laois. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / Irish Independent 25/9/2013
Michael Martin

FIANNA Fail's Dublin candidate for the European Parliament, Mary Fitzpatrick, is a slender foundation on which to base the future fortunes of a leader and a party.

But there is no getting away from the truth that the fortunes of Micheal Martin and Ms Fitzpatrick are intimately connected, for the ongoing credibility of Martin and Fianna Fail depends very much upon the fate of Fitzpatrick.

The extent of the battle and the changed circumstances of the party are very evident on the campaign trail. In the past, Fianna Fail Euro election candidates were followed by flotillas of ministers, taoisigh and variegated hangers-on, mostly of a PR and building variant.

With Mary, it is all more modest as the solitary candidate engages in "deep and philosophical conversations about austerity" with passing members of the public.

It would be excessive to say that Mary Fitz wandered lonely as a cloud at the Grand Canal Hotel meeting with the citizens last week. But as we looked at the neatly laid-out basket of apples (in tribute to the absent leader, doubtless, who is an apple a day man) and the crowd of 40 who turned up, this was a different Fianna Fail.

Outside, the focus was on new non-toxic FF too, as Mary and Michael McGrath, the party's Steve Silver-mint of a finance spokesman, strolled along the canal banks for the benefit of the photographers.

The sun danced on the top of the dappled waters and the fragrant Mary and McGrath smiled innocuously. But history intervened, for looming above the talented duo was the shadow of the Treasury buildings, the HQ that held the drama and the flitting fears of Bertie's faltering grasp for immortality in 2011.

In fairness, all that has little to do with a candidate whose defining political core value appears to be that of being the party's 'anti-Bertie'.

The problem with this narrative of the feisty rebel bearding Bertie in his Drumcondra Den is that the anti-Bertie bandwagon is seriously over-manned right now.

The stark reality is that Mary is a councillor, a talented one, mind, and a twice-failed Dail candidate without a huge public profile who is trying to gain the 100,000 votes needed for Europe.

That said, the mood in the Fianna Fail ranks is positive and in what will be seen as a sinister development for Mr Gilmore, the old hands claim: "There is a real sense that Labour is fading."

Meanwhile, they gather around Mary. Fianna Fail's protectiveness is entirely understandable, for if the party is to ever strike again for power which is more virile than that of merely being an adjunct to Fine Gael, then it must win back a seat in Dublin.

So it is that a fortune of Fianna Fail's severely reduced treasure and manpower is being thrown in the direction of the candidate.

The gamble, however, is entirely logical, for if she fails, and if that is symptomatic of a trend, then despite the current state of quiescence within this turbulent party, they may come for Dear Leader Micheal in the autumn.

Sunday Independent

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