Tuesday 28 January 2020

Rank and file still haven't lost the faith

Colm Kelpie

ONE year on and the party faithful appear remarkably upbeat. They've lost another seat since their election, with the death of Brian Lenihan, and they're being outstripped in the polls by Sinn Fein.

But the Fianna Fail grassroots who travelled to the RDS for what has been billed as the most important ard fheis in the party's recent history were determined to stay positive.

Dublin, more than any other area in last year's election, witnessed the decimation of a party that had dominated Irish politics for almost 80 years.

After the party's electoral drumming, leader Micheal Martin had promised to regroup and reorganise the Soldiers of Destiny to fight again. Now, 12 months on and the consensus is that this weekend is 'make or break' for Mr Martin.

But Eamon O Cuiv's referendum intervention doesn't appear to have damaged the leader too badly, with the majority of rank and file members who spoke to the Irish Independent claiming that it was ill-judged and ill-timed.

Micheal Martin is both well liked and highly respected for taking on the mantle of party chief at its lowest ebb. However, the advice is to get tougher -- and to do it quickly.

One party member from Donegal said: "There's a year gone by now and it's time that there has to be a bit more opposition to the Government."

That need is more important now than ever as Sinn Fein creeps higher in the polls.

Leader

One poll last weekend put Fianna Fail at 16pc, with Sinn Fein taking a commanding second position with 25pc, up four points. That worries delegates.

One, from Co Kerry, even went so far as to suggest that a merger between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail should not be ruled out. But to other delegates, that appeared fanciful and unlikely.

"Sinn Fein are very good to articulate and they're very good in discussions -- but I'm not sure how they'd be able to cope if they were in power," one woman from Co Tipperary said.

One supporter of Micheal Martin, from Co Kerry, said it would take the party time to regroup, but the leader had to make more of an impression.

"Some of the media are saying he has to be more aggressive, but it's awkward when their policies are more or less being implemented (by the Government).

"The year is up now, so I think he should move on."

Irish Independent

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