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Martin rules out any FF candidate for the Aras

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin confirmed yesterday the party will not contest the presidential election but it has not ruled out supporting an Independent candidate.

It is the first time in the party's 85-year history that it has not contested a presidential election and it follows Fianna Fail's disastrous performance in February's general election.

Mr Martin said it would be difficult for some members to accept the decision and that some would be disappointed.

"Nonetheless, it is a strategic decision," he said.

Mr Martin spoke outside Leinster House flanked by members of the sub- committee he set up to make recommendations to the parliamentary party.

He said he had no regrets about offering the party's support to broadcaster Gay Byrne although some members of the party thought it was a mistake.

However, while there will not be a Fianna Fail candidate, the party will decide after nominations are closed whether or not to back an Independent candidate.

Mr Martin said that, in April, Fianna Fail MEP Brian Crowley was shown polls that indicated no party candidate could win the presidential election.

He had spoken to Mr Crowley in the summer and told him that the party would make a decision by the end of August.

Mr Martin said it was clear to him that in the public mind, the presidential election was not a party-based election and voters were more focused on the candidates.

He said the decision not to contest the presidential election was strategic, that the party needed to renew itself and to rebuild a bond of trust with the Irish people.


The decision -- taken without a vote by the parliamentary party yesterday -- follows a recommendation from a six-member sub-committee that met on Monday.

In the party rooms earlier, the chairman of the parliamentary party, Wexford TD John Browne, and Laois Offaly TD Barry Cowen, backed deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv's plea for Fianna Fail to field a candidate.

Senators Mary White and Jim Walsh also spoke in favour of the party contesting the presidential election.

Irish Independent