Martin to force running mates on his senior front bench TDs
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will force his senior front bench TDs to campaign alongside running mates in the next general election, the Sunday Independent has learned.
Mr Martin is prepared to face down an angry backlash from his senior team as he ramps up preparations to take on Fine Gael when the country next goes to the polls.
The make-up of the current Dail and recent opinion poll results mean there is considerable fear among TDs in all parties about going into the next election with a running mate. However, Fianna Fail sources said Mr Martin will only stand a chance of becoming the next Taoiseach if his front bench TDs stand up to the plate and dramatically increase the party's seat count.
A source said senior party members will be told to actively campaign to bring in a running mate or risk losing their position in the party.
Cork North Central's Billy Kelleher, Limerick County's Niall Collins, Limerick City's Willie O'Dea, Clare's Timmy Dooley, Galway West's Eamon O Cuiv, and Dublin Fingal's Darragh O'Brien will all be expected to bring in second candidates. The only senior Fianna Fail TDs likely to escape running with a second candidate are the party's justice spokesman, Jim O'Callaghan, and education spokesman Thomas Byrne.
Mr Kelleher, Mr Collins and Mr O'Dea ran without running mates in the 2016 General Election but Fianna Fail headquarters is now actively searching for second candidates in their constituencies. In Cork North Central, the party is considering three councillors, Ken O'Flynn, Tony Fitzgerald and John Sheehan.
Mr Collins is expected to run with local councillor Eddie Ryan, who recently expressed an interesting in running. It is understood Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) general secretary Antoinette Cunningham had been considered. However, it is understood Ms Cunningham is currently uninterested in a move to politics as she still has a number of years to serve in the force.
Mr O'Brien and Mr Dooley failed to bring in running mates in 2016 despite the national increase in support for Fianna Fail.
Mr Dooley could run alongside local Fianna Fail councillor Cathal Crowe who recently declared an interest in running. The constituency boundary review published by the Government last year will be a major advantage to Mr Crowe. Dr John Hillery, the son of former President Patrick Hillery, is also being considered as a potential candidate. Dr Hillery was expected to run in the last election but pulled out before the campaign started.
Councillors Clare Colleran Molloy and Michael McDonagh ran with Mr Dooley in 2016 but are not likely to run again.
In Dublin Fingal, Mr O'Brien failed to bring in his running mate Lorraine Clifford Lee in 2016 but they will be expected to campaign closer together next time and secure two seats.
Dublin is a huge focus for Fianna Fail ahead of the next vote and the party is targeting at least five extra seats.
Along with Dublin Fingal, the party is looking at new seats in Dublin North West, with Paul McAuliffe, Dublin South Central with Catherine Ardagh, and Dublin Central with Mary Fitzpatrick.
Senior Fianna Fail figures also believe they can win seats in Dublin South West and in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown. The belief in Fianna Fail is that the next election will be won or lost in Dublin.