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Clear signs of economic recovery add to Fianna Fail's difficulties

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Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald; the party will not win more seats than Fianna Fail in the next Dail

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald; the party will not win more seats than Fianna Fail in the next Dail

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald; the party will not win more seats than Fianna Fail in the next Dail

FIANNA Fail, glass half full or glass half empty? You can make a case for both.

The positives first. The local elections showed the party in first place with 25pc of the vote, just ahead of Fine Gael; over 10 points up on Sinn Fein and well ahead of its disastrous general election performance of 2011.

It confirmed the party's solid, if unspectacular, performance in various by-elections. And it demonstrates that, far from disappearing, Fianna Fail will be a serious force in the next Dail with 40-plus seats - many of them coming from a new, hungry generation of councillors elected last May.

There were also signs in the last Dail session of the old FF killer instinct returning. Several heavy blows were landed on the government, particularly over the garda whistleblower issue. Lastly, despite all the hype, Sinn Fein has no chance of winning more seats than Fianna Fail in the next Dail.

But there are just as many, if not more, negatives. The continually poor opinion poll performances suggests too much has been read into Fianna Fail's first place finish in the locals. Did the presence of so many well known councillors - who'd continue to attract votes regardless of the state of the party - artificially inflate Fianna Fail's performance?

The pretty dismal Euro elections performance - just one seat and an arguably 'Independent' one at that in Brian Crowley - was worrying (although party figures insist it was more about poor vote management). As was the failure to win a seat at the second time of asking in Dublin West. There's also no getting away from the fact that, at 18pc, the party is hovering around its election meltdown level of three and half years ago. And that's despite the huge loss in support for both coalition parties.

The clear signs of economic recovery only adds to Fianna Fail's difficulties, as it feeds into the government's narrative of Fine Gael and Labour as saviours of the economy. The reality is far more complex. But there isn't any political mileage for Fianna Fail in arguing the tough decisions made by Cowen and Lenihan after 2008 were just as significant in rescuing the economy as anything the Coalition has done, however true it may be.

The less than positive vibe around the party at the moment doesn't help. Mary Hanafin, as is her wont, wasn't behind the door in venting her frustrations.

She doesn't have much, if any, traction within the parliamentary party (some of the language being used by TDs about her intervention was quite 'unparliamentary').

But there are others grumbling, albeit under their breath.

Irish Independent