Micheal Martin: It's a positive day for Fianna Fail as exit polls indicate 23pc support
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin ruled out any move for a snap General Election on the basis of what he said was "a very positive" Local Government and European Parliament election for his party.
Mr Martin stressed that Local Government election results were very encouraging for Fianna Fáil - and he said it sent an emphatic message to critics of Fianna Fáil and his party leadership as Fine Gael's 10pc opinion poll leader "evaporated at the ballot box."
Exit polls indicated his party had matched Fine Gael at 23pc support.
But he said it had no bearing on the Confidence & Supply Agreement with the Government or the timing of any general election.
"That is not the context in which I look at the local elections," he told Independent.ie.
"No - I have never used the local elections or saw the local elections as a moment to sort of decide whether you will have (a general election)."
"If you look at all the interviews I have given prior to this, my message has been consistent.
"A lot of the parties privately will admit it but they won’t say it publicly. I think the Greens are the only ones who will say it and agree that we shouldn’t call a (general) election (because of Brexit) before Christmas and Eamon Ryan said that to me but the others were pretending that they wanted one but we would not."
However, Mr Martin slated the Government's handling of the plebiscite on directly elected mayors in Cork, Waterford and Limerick as "absolutely shambolic."
Early tallies indicated the plebiscite will be rejected in Cork.
He acknowledged it was shaping up to be a very good election for Fianna Fáil with the party poised to consolidate gains on councils nationwide - and remain in the fight for three European Parliament berths in Dublin and Ireland South.
In Cork City Council, Fianna Fáil are poised to hold all 10 seats on the 31 seat council.
"Yes (FF will be there or thereabouts for next General Election). But it is a fragmented electoral system right now. We are in a different order than the last decade in politics.
"But you never use local elections as a barometer for a general election – I’m around long enough and I’m experienced politician - locals are different, people vote different at locals, they definitely vote differently in European (elections).
"In 1989 Fianna Fail won 40 odd per cent in the general election and only got 32pc in the same day in the Europeans – if you look at the history of European elections, they produce personalities, Dana, Kathy Sinnott etc.
"But I think we are in the Barna Baol (gap of danger) - we are not only still standing we are making gains, we are still bringing people in but it is a challenging environment electorally.
"It is very hard work - to be fair to all our candidates, they put in very hard work and a lot of their background teams have.
"We are positive about the future. It is a very fragmented situation right now - I want to pay tribute to the Green Party. I think they did well. Eamon Ryan and myself, we came in after the 2011 General Election and we have ploughed a lonely furrow at times.
"He is having his day today and I pay tribute to him for his leadership in that regard.
"It (final results) is going to be fascinating to see - there have been some big stories in this election. For two years we have watched opinion polls telling us that Fine Gael were ten clear points ahead of Fianna Fáil.
"That has evaporated - I don't know where the Sinn Fein vote is but they face challenges in some areas in terms of seats.
"Everybody is impacted - we seem to be holding our own in the local elections but it is a cautionary tale because there is a lot of counts to go.
"I am looking at 50pc of the tallies and it looks like we are in a good enough position to hold the ten seats (on Cork City Council)."
He said Fianna Fáil was hoping their final local election results reflected the positive early tallies.
"It is early days yet - in the Local Government elections I think we will consolidate the gains we made on the last occasion.
"We could gain more additional seats across the country, particularly in Dublin not withstanding the Green surge.
"There are some exciting potential results coming our way in places like Dundrum, Tallaght and Dublin south inner city.
"Places where we didn't have representation for quite some time.
"We will be watching that very carefully and the early tallies are very positive in that regard.
"A lot in local elections depends on the quality of your candidates. Bear in mind we lost 10pc of our poll toppers in the last local election - they went into the Dail and into the Seanad.
"To replace that 10pc was always going to be a challenge.
"But it looks like we are going to hold onto the seats we won the last time out. From a local election point of view in terms of the renewal of the party and bringing in new people - that is the kind of thing we are looking for, people who have potential going into the future.
"When this is all over and the final votes are counted, a bit like 2014, it could be very good for the party.
"Notwithstanding the Green surge, I think this could be a very good result for us."