Monday 23 April 2018

Fianna Fáil now in a race for 79 seats that it knows can't be won

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil will have to get nearly all of its election candidates into the Dáil if it is to enter government.

With the election now looming, the party has selected 57 candidates and has just five selection conventions left to be held.

At the same time, party leader Micheál Martin is being very picky about his possible coalition partners - leaving the party with two options.

Forming the next Government is a race to 79 seats that even the most optimistic people in the party admit that they cannot win.

Party chiefs say they will have over 70 names on the ballot papers - but even at that, a coalition is a long way off.

Opinion polls suggest the two most mathematically plausible coalition options would be with Fine Gael or possibly Sinn Féin.

But Mr Martin has ruled both of those out.

Several TDs have told the Irish Independent that between 40 and 45 seats would be a super day out.

Finding another 35 seats from Labour, the Social Democrats and Independents would be, as one TD put it, "a wedding cake with so many layers it would instantly topple over".

It's a quandary that Fianna Fáil candidates are likely to face as they travel to TV and radio studios in the run-up to polling: why would somebody vote for a party that is essentially blocking itself from entering government?

Former minister Willie O'Dea has said that he would be happy to spend another five years on the opposition benches.

"We moved to third division at the last election. We need to move from the third division to the second division, so if that requires a time in Opposition, so be it," he said.

While the Limerick TD believes that the redrawing of constituencies will help his party, he would "prefer to stay out (of government) and keep on building".

After being gutted at the election in 2011, Fianna Fáil has no TDs in Dublin and faces stiff opposition from Sinn Féin, with which Senator Darragh O'Brien says he wants "nothing to do with" in a post-election environment.

"I think the best thing to do is what Micheál Martin has done. It would not be good for democracy for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to go in together," he added.

Colm Keaveney took a leap of faith when he quit the Labour Party and joined Fianna Fáil after the last election.

He would still consider a coalition with his old party if they were "prepared to rediscover their traditional links to working people", he said.

Éamon Ó Cuív believes the party will have to put in a 'Herculean effort' to end up in government but refused to rule out the possibility.

A party spokesperson said Fianna Fáil would have a "manifesto that learns from the past and sets out a clear vision".

They added: "We are happy that we will make progress in this election and it is a matter for the Irish people whether or not Fianna Fáil has a mandate to be in government."

Irish Independent

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