Wednesday 18 September 2019

Fionnan Sheahan: FF members must face up to reality of party's unpopularity

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin only has to convince an internal audience of his decision not to run a presidential election candidate -- the public don't really care.

Mr Martin has taken the view that running a candidate for the sake of it won't help the party in the long run.

Indeed, he even went as far yesterday as to suggest that in the unlikely event of a Fianna Fail candidate winning, it wouldn't actually benefit.

In fact, it would merely resurrect the resentment towards the party, as expressed in the 2011 general election result.

It was clear Mr Martin would have to make tough decisions on electoral strategy, such as seriously thinking about giving the presidential campaign a skip.

As a party with a proud tradition of holding the office, it wasn't going to be easy to convey to members and supporters that it was necessary to give it a miss.

The argument put forward by those who passionately believe Fianna Fail should contest is that any self-respecting party should be running a candidate -- and the presidency can serve as a catalyst to begin the fightback.

But this ignores the reality of Fianna Fail's continued unpopularity -- and the depth of the problems facing the party.

The arguments against running a candidate will be put to TDs and senators tomorrow, namely:

•Research shows a Fianna Fail candidate polling poorly.

•Polls show a public appetite for Independents.

•The party needs to concentrate on the local and European elections in 2014.

•The campaign would be a waste of €500,000 for a party €2.3m in debt.

Fianna Fail polling showed Brian Crowley and Mary Hanafin barely breaking into double figures, with Eamon O Cuiv even further behind.

Getting the decision across the line tomorrow is a foregone conclusion but the meeting will afford an opportunity for those who disagree to make their case -- and for the disgruntled to have a pop at the leader.

Fianna Fail is no longer a major political force but not all of the party accepts that.

Irish Independent

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