Crucial week for Martin as Seanad count begins
FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin will begin to find out today if his gamble on getting his favoured Seanad candidates elected is paying off.
The marathon counting of votes in the Seanad elections begins today in Leinster House and will continue all week.
Mr Martin controversially asked party representatives to only vote for his chosen 10 candidates, sparking a backlash from veteran senators.
The Fianna Fail leader is banking on his team of younger candidates, the majority of whom ran in the general election, getting the backing of the party's councillors.
Getting anything less than half of his 10 candidates elected will prove to be enormously embarrassing for Mr Martin and be interpreted as a rejection of his strategy by the party.
Despite the leader's endorsement of the younger candidates, the bulk of the outgoing Fianna Fail senators are running again along with a number of other party candidates.
In a number of cases, the battle will be between Mr Martin's chosen candidates and the established senators for one final seat.
The elections are largely determined by the respective strengths of the parties, as the majority of TDs, senators and councillors, who make up the electorate, tend to vote for their own party candidates. After losing councillors in the 2004 and 2009 local elections and TDs in 2011 General Election, Fianna Fail's voting strength is reduced considerably.
The counts this week will cover the 43 members from the five panels of Seanad Eireann.
Fianna Fail is expected to win just 10 to 13 seats on the panels. By contrast, Fine Gael and the Labour Party will pick up a considerable number of extra seats.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will name his 11 Taoiseach's nominees next week, which are expected to be divided between the two coalition parties and a number of Independent campaigners.
Sinn Fein is hoping to pick up a few seats, but their candidates will need to win external support, as the party doesn't have enough votes in its own right.