FORMER Minister Mary Hanafin will contest this month's local elections in a major act of defiance against party leader Micheal Martin.
The Irish Independent has learnt that Ms Hanafin has resisted serious efforts by the party hierarchy to have her election papers revoked.
Informed sources last night confirmed that Ms Hanafin will allow her nomination to stand upon this afternoon's deadline and will contest the election as a Fianna Fail candidate.
She will contest the Blackrock ward on May 23, alongside the president of the Fianna Fail youth wing, Kate Feeney.
But the party's handling of the Mary Hanafin affair has caused consternation among TDs, senators and councillors and has turned up the heat on Mr Martin.
There is now a growing belief within the party that Mr Martin's position will be challenged in the aftermath of the local and European elections.
Several party sources also expressed concern last night that the widespread media coverage of Ms Hanafin's political comeback could damage the chances of Fianna Fail's candidate in Dublin, Mary Fitzpatrick.
Perhaps unexpectedly, the manner in which Ms Hanafin was approached and later told she was dropped has brought Mr Martin's leadership into serious uncertainty.
The former Dun Laoghaire TD had no intention to run in the election until she was formally approached by FF General Secretary Sean Dorgan on Wednesday.
She was shown research that showed the party had a strong chance of securing two seats in the six-seater ward and was formally asked to run.
During the meeting, Ms Hanafin was given the necessary party affiliation papers required to submit a nomination.
But the party got cold feet on Friday night and tried to contact Ms Hanafin to inform her that members of the constituency committee had changed their minds.
Despite the warning, Ms Hanafin lodged her papers with the returning officer of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown council and has refused efforts to have them revoked.
Fianna Fail figures of all ranks have been left furious at the handling of the affair.
Some members believe she should not have been approached in the first place, while others insist efforts to drop her were disgraceful. While the approach was made by Mr Dorgan, party sources insisted that such a move must have had the backing of senior TDs, including Mr Martin.
There is an unprecedented level of anger towards Mr Martin in particular, as TDs and senators claim the affair has exposed him as a poor leader.
One source claimed that Ms Hanafin had been "thrown under a bus" by the party hierarchy.
Also commenting on Mr Martin, a senior member of the parliamentary party told the Irish Independent: "A leader without any followers is just a guy taking a walk."
The number of TDs and senators who spoke to the Irish Independent represents about half of the parliamentary party.
As the Cabinet today prepares to sign off on water charges, FF is in turmoil over the return of a former minister.