Plenty of positives for Martin as party increases its vote
FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin sought to downplay the significance of the Meath East by-election result, which saw his party substantially increase its vote from the general election drubbing two years ago.
Party candidate Thomas Byrne received just under 33pc of the first preference vote, around 6pc behind eventual winner Helen McEntee, which was a little further back than many had expected.
Although it had hoped to win the seat, and maybe even come a closer second, Fianna Fail pointed to other factors which it claims augur well for the party's future.
For example, the almost complete collapse in the Labour vote did not transfer entirely to Sinn Fein but dispersed widely.
Sources also said Fianna Fail had increased the number of transfers it picked up from Sinn Fein, with one source claiming they were up from 10pc to 40pc.
Party sources said the increase will help candidates close to winning seats at the next election.
But Mr Martin said: "It doesn't mean that Fianna Fail is back in business, we're in a new situation here. I've been on the door. People aren't that indulgent of political parties in terms of where they are now."
Mr Martin and Mr Byrne, pictured left, said they agreed with Mary-Lou McDonald that Labour was being punished for its broken election promises.
"I felt this was coming," Mr Martin said of the destroyed Labour vote. "If the people were volunteering anything on the doorstep it was a deep sense of betrayal in terms of the commitments made to them in relation to issues like child benefit, third-level fees.
"We're making progress but the important thing is we continue to develop our policies and the constructive approach we've adopted in opposition," Mr Martin added.
"The sense is that Labour isn't representing the working person, and that came across on the doorstep. It will inform how we approach the next local elections."