Wednesday 26 June 2019

Martin 'risks fielding Fianna Fáil C team' for European elections

Strategy: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Strategy: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
John Downing

John Downing

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin faces claims of risking fielding a "C team" of candidates in European Parliament elections amid signs party strategists will retreat from persuading TDs not to stand.

The embattled leader faces internal party claims that his stated aim to be "at the forefront of Europe" is not borne out by his reluctance to stand high-profile TDs and his opting instead for councillors.

Already there have been signs that Cork TD Billy Kelleher and Offaly's Barry Cowen are contemplating standing in the South constituency, while Cavan's Brendan Smith is keen to contest in Midlands North-West.

One senior party figure - who is not seeking a European Parliament nomination - said the party "is at risk of fielding a C team of candidates" for an election in which Fianna Fáil must recover from serious losses last time out in 2014.

On that occasion its only successful candidate, Brian Crowley, fell out with the party shortly afterwards.

But party officials rejected the idea that the party leader was trying to bar anyone - including sitting Fianna Fáil TDs - from standing in the European contest and they insisted the party members will soon choose candidates at selection conventions.

The issue arises because of impossibly tight Dáil arithmetic, an outright ban on the same person holding an EU and Dáil seat, and an obligation to hold a Dáil by-election within six months of a vacancy arising.

A spokesman for Mr Martin said he had merely expressed a personal view some time ago that TDs would be better concentrating on Irish politics.

"But the leader has no intention of trying of blocking anyone," the spokesman said.

Polling is due on May 24 but the main parties, including Fianna Fáil, have been slow to get organised and pick candidates.

The party is best fixed in Dublin, a Euro three-seater set to increase to four seats.

Party members will pick the Dublin contender from former ministers Conor Lenihan, Mary Hanafin and Barry Andrews, and LGBT rights campaigner Tiernan Brady. But most of the focus is on South, comprising Munster and south and east Leinster, which goes from four to five seats; and to a lesser extent on four-seat Midlands North-West.

In the South, the focus has been on Cllr Séamus McGrath, a brother of party finance spokesman Michael McGrath, and Gorey-based Cllr Malcolm Byrne. In the Midlands North-West, comprising Connacht, Ulster and five north Leinster counties, there has been speculation about Senator Aidan Davitt of Mullingar, former Donegal TD Niall Blaney, whose uncle Niall was a long-time MEP, and former ICMSA leader John Comer, who is based in Mayo.

The prospect of TDs standing may change that field.

Irish Independent

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