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Fiach Kelly: Party leader must cull more TDs to avoid splitting vote

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin said the party can no longer look at candidate selection through the prism of the 2007 General Election.

At the weekend, he acted on his belief that running two candidates in some constituencies could split the vote and leave the party with no seat.

He persuaded Cork North-Central TD Noel O'Flynn to retire and allow constituency colleague Billy Kelleher to have a clear run, but there are other constituencies where FF faces similar problems:

  • Dublin North: Impossible for both Micheal Kennedy and Darragh O'Brien to retain their seats. Judging by Mr O'Brien's promotion to the frontbench yesterday, the younger man is favoured by party HQ.

However, Mr Kennedy has no intention of going anywhere, having topped the poll last time out with almost 11,000 votes.

  • Dublin Central: Again, Mr Martin's frontbench choices left no doubt as to whom he wants elected to the Dail with Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick, shafted by Bertie Ahern the last time out, getting the nod yesterday. She's up against Cyprian Brady, who came in on the former Taoiseach's coat tails in 2007.

Even Bertie Ahern admits there is "no hope" of two seats and both candidates are adamant they are running -- but it could be Mr Brady who loses out.

  • Kildare North: If Mr Martin really wanted to push one of his two TDs here off the stage, Micheal Fitzpatrick is willing to obey. He already discussed the idea with Mr Martin and was told to stay on, but he may still step aside and let Aine Brady run on her own.

"We want to hold two seats but if I felt a seat was in danger and my standing down would help keep the seat, I would consider it," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

  • Kildare South: TDs Sean Power and Sean O Fearghail admit only one of them will be returning to the Dail, but neither is willing to step aside.
  • Limerick County: Yet another new appointment to the frontbench competing with a party rival, with new defence spokesman Niall Collins fighting it out with Cowen loyalist John Cregan in this three-seater.

However, local FF sources say local polling in the constituency is not as bad as elsewhere across the country.

  • Dublin South-West: Mr Martin is desperate to have only one of the two sitting TDs -- Conor Lenihan and Charlie O'Connor -- run in this constituency and twice last week asked Mr Lenihan to switch to Dublin South.

Mr Lenihan turned him down and insists he will not retire either, saying he still has ambitions to lead the party. But the appalling level of FF support in Dublin means both could lose out.

Irish Independent