Wednesday 16 October 2019

Fianna Fáil to increase attacks on Government after Aylward victory

Carlow-Kilkenny by-election

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin celebrates with the party’s by-election candidate Bobby Aylward on his victory in the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin celebrates with the party’s by-election candidate Bobby Aylward on his victory in the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Fianna Fáil will increase attacks on what it calls the Government's failure to protect homeowners and the elderly after taking victory in the Carlow/Kilkenny by-election.

Party strategists will also heap pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to publish the Fennelly Report into allegations he sacked former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

The party believes it is leading the way in terms of preparations for the general election and will have its full ticket of candidates selected within months.

Preparation of the party's election manifesto is at an advanced stage and policy development is ongoing.

Senior party figures were reluctant to "overstate" Bobby Aylward's win in the early hours of Sunday morning but said they were pleased with the outcome.

Mr Aylward took 28pc of the first-preference votes to take former Environment Minister Phil Hogan's seat in the Dáil.

However, this is the same vote the party took in the constituency at the last general election, which will fuel claims Fianna Fáil's support has not improved on the disastrous 2011 election.

However, Mr Aylward, who was a backbench TD in both Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen-led Fianna Fáil governments, beat Fine Gael candidate David Fitzgerald by almost 5,000 votes.

The Fianna Fáil politician also picked up a healthy number of transfers from all the main parties, including Sinn Féin candidate Kathleen Funchion, who took 16pc of the vote.

Speaking at the count centre in Kilkenny on Saturday, Micheál Martin said he hoped the win would "galvanise" the party in the run in to the general election, which he said could be in six months.

"By-elections by definition are different to elections but nonetheless it illustrates Fianna Fáil has the capacity to command a significant proportion of the vote in any electoral contests," Mr Martin said.

"There is a capacity in the party to dig it out and it renders us very competitive in terms of every single constituency."

Senior party members also hope questions over Mr Martin's leadership and infighting over direction will come to an end following the first Fianna Fáil by-election win since 1996.

Strategists said Mr Aylward's win showed candidates with "strong roots in the local communities" would perform well in the general election.

But they insisted this did not mean the party would lure members of the Fianna Fáil "old guard" back into politics.

"If you look at some of the councillors we got elected, you will see lots of people who are rooted in their communities and also very well educated," a source said.

The party believes it can win more votes by highlighting the Coalition's "disingenuous claims" that older people's income has not been hit during the recession. "This is an area we have been focusing on and will continue to focus on by pointing out that older people have had their allowances slashed and hit with extra taxes under Labour and Fine Gael," a source said.

Mr Martin also raised this issue at the weekend, saying: "Senior citizens are very concerned by the fact that there has been plethora of charges."

Irish Independent

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