Monday 17 December 2018

Fianna Fáil on motorway back as opposition benefits from Coalition collapse

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin casts his vote with son Micheál Aodh, wife Mary and daughter Aoibhe in Ballinlough, Cork. Photo: PA
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin casts his vote with son Micheál Aodh, wife Mary and daughter Aoibhe in Ballinlough, Cork. Photo: PA

Fionnán Sheahan

Fianna Fáil is on the motorway back. Five years on from the darkest day in its history, Micheál Martin's party has produced a stunning recovery with almost 23pc of the vote.

The party is now heading towards up to 40 seats - a doubling of its number in the last general election.

After taking back 5pc of the votes it lost in the 2011 meltdown, Fianna Fáil has dramatically narrowed the gap with Fine Gael.

The party will definitely be the second biggest in the next Dáil and will now be eyeing up a place in government.

However, this may mean a grand coalition with Fine Gael and an end of Civil War politics.

Following his performance in the campaign, the result will solidify Mr Martin's status as party leader.

He did extremely well across the three leaders' debates, despite the continual focus on his own record as a minister and membership of the previous government, which was in power during the economic downturn and arrival of the Troika.

Fianna Fáil have 71 candidates in the field and will get at least 36 seats and probably closer to 40.

None of the sitting TDs are likely to lose their seats, while new candidates and returning TDs will be getting elected and also in the hunt.

At the last general election, the party suffered massively from a decline in its first preference vote and proved to be toxic when it came to transfers.

In the battle with Fine Gael, the party has taken well over half of the support lost by Taoiseach Enda Kenny's party. The votes that were famously loaned to Fine Gael have come home, in part.

Fianna Fáil is not the only opposition party to have had a good day.

Sinn Féin's growth will also continue as Gerry Adams's party is heading towards 15pc - about a 50pc increase in its support since the last general election.

Sinn Féin will add at least an extra 10 seats to its current cohort of 14 in the last Dáil.

The remaining small parties and Independents have seen a significant increase in support and will be firmly in the hunt for a presence in every constituency in the country.

Richard Boyd Barrett's AAA/PBP is on 3.6pc; the Green Party on 3.5pc; the Social Democrats on 2.8pc; Renua on 2.6pc and Independents and others on 16pc.

The concern for the smaller parties will be that their vote is too spread out across the country to win additional seats. But Independents will be set to substantially increase their presence in the next Dáil.

The outgoing opposition will now be needed to form a new government as Fine Gael and the Labour Party are significantly short of the numbers to be returned, after coming to power on the back of the biggest majority in history.

Irish Independent

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