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'The start of renewal' for grassroots members

FIANNA Fail grassroots members finally believe the comeback has started following the party's first gathering since the 2011 General Election drubbing.

The 73rd Fianna Fail Ard Fheis saw the party return to the RDS -- scene of many memorable party occasions.

Over the course of the weekend, up to 4,500 party activists came through the doors, including the 2,945 who packed in for party leader Micheal Martin's keynote address.

After coming to ard fheisenna for 20 years, Michael Masterson from north Longford was pleasantly surprised by the attendance.

Describing Mr Martin as "innately decent", Mr Masterson accepted the party leader might not necessarily return the party to power again.

"He has an important role to do. He'll put the foundations in place," he said.

Not everybody was convinced of Mr Martin's abilities.

David McCabe from Bunratty, Co Clare, felt it will "take a while to climb on the ladder".

"He hasn't been able to face up to it when the chips are down. He's nervous. He hasn't the ability of other leaders. There's a lot more besides me feel that way," he said.


Overall though, Mr Martin's performance received the approval of delegates, including Noel Hickey from Rathdowney in Laois.

"We're on the way back," he said.

His fellow countyman, Billy Delaney, was satisfied with the tone of the leader's speech.

"He didn't overdo any of it. He touched on all the right points," he said.

And Rita Holland from Mountrath in Laois was "very happy" with Mr Martin's speech and thought the warm reception received by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was appropriate.

"I think history will treat him well," she said.

While she felt it was important to acknowledge past mistakes, Marian Farrell-Moore from Tonaphubble in Sligo said the ard fheis was "the start of renewal".

Irish Independent