Fianna Fail on election footing now, says Martin
Fianna Fail will be on an "election footing" from today amid a growing belief there will be a general election this year, party leader Micheal Martin has said.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Martin said the party is targeting a seat in all 41 constituencies in the next election, but warned it will be running smaller tickets of one or two candidates per area rather than the three or four it previously did.
"I think there is a very good chance it could be in 2015 but in many respects it is an academic debate as to whether it is late 2015 or early 2016. Once January comes, we are on an election footing, we are in election mode," he said.
Asked about how many seats he expects to win, Mr Martin said he would be hopeful the party could replicate its good performance in last May's local elections, which saw Fianna Fail become the largest party at local authority level.
Asked if 40 seats was the target, he said: "Yeah, we would like to be there or thereabouts."
He said there is a huge swing to non-aligned independents who are likely to distort the political landscape.
Mr Martin ruled out a coalition with Sinn Fein and Fine Gael saying Enda Kenny's party are "too right wing" for him as leader of a "centrist party with a social dimension".
"I have ruled out Sinn Fein, and that is absolutely clear and we are not going into government with Fine Gael either. I just think they are far too right wing. I don't see any agenda coming out of Fine Gael after the troika left," he said.
He agreed this would leave Fianna Fail going in with Labour and some independents.
He said that while the party would be targeting a seat in all constituencies, he admitted that Fianna Fail will have to wait for two general elections before it fully regains its foothold in Dublin.
He said: "Dublin is the most challenging area for us. The wipe-out in 2011 has meant for four years we have had no standard bearer in Dublin constituencies.
"Big personalities have been absent that is a huge challenge for us. The other issue in some parts of Dublin - the party had moved from the community roots it had. I can see the fightback happening in Dublin but it is a two-election strategy to get us back to where we want to be."
Asked if he felt the public have forgiven Fianna Fail for its mishandling of the economy, he said the door is again open to the party where it certainly wasn't in 2011.
"However, there are many people who voted Fianna Fail in the past who have not come back yet," he said. "My message to them is we have changed as a party, we have made mistakes but we are learning from those mistakes."