The only way is up says Fianna Fáil leader Martin
FIANNA Fáil are at the bottom of the political mountain, but there is only one way to go - and that is up, according to party leader Micheál Martin.
He was on a whistlestop tour of the country to drum up support and get what he termed, "young fresh blood," into the party. During an interview with The Corkman on Friday evening, he said the Cork North West (CNW) meeting wasn't exactly plain sailing as the 200 grassroots supporters let their feelings be known.
"They were vocal and people had concerns and criticisms of where we went wrong as a party. We had research done and in February, the people sent us a clear message and as a result, the party was greatly weakened. But what is now needed is structural reform," said Mr Martin.
When asked what the grassroots supporters had honed in on and complained about, he said that the E-voting debacle got a bashing, and some felt that some of the Fianna Fail ministers were arrogant and could not be approached. In addition, he said that members acknowledged that mistakes were made with regards to the public sector pay.
He said the party has a debt of €2 million and they are "on the pathway" to eliminate it. During the interview, he was quite clear that paramount for the party was "young fresh blood," and he said Fianna Fail needs to be energised for the 2014 general election.
At the CNW meeting, he said the supporters presented him with a detailed document, 'Eistigí Linn' - where members outlined where there was a disconnection presently within the party.
He also said the members outlined a range of issues which dipped into everything from Northern Ireland, the economy, nationalisation, as well as social economic policy.
When outlined by this reporter that the catchment region of Duhallow was very conservative as, despite Fianna Fail receiving a whipping by the electorate during the general election, Kiskeam's Michael Moynihan topped the poll with over 8,000 first preference votes.
Mr Martin acknowledged that not only was Duhallow a conservative catchment region when it relayed to voting, it also had the highest ageing population in the country.
"Duhallow is very well represented, as it has Michael Moynihan who has been a consistent pole topper, and that is due to his hard work on the ground and he shows us [the party] that in the vote that he got," said Mr Martin.
The CNW consistency is quite a difficult terrain for campaigners as it stretches from Charleville and Rockchapel in the north to Ballingeary and Crossbarry in the south.
In short, there's 2,500 square miles of ground and this also includes the urban area of Ballincollig. However, he acknowledged that with no sitting TD on the southern edge of CNW, and in particular Ballincollig which has a population of approximately 20,000 people, it is "a cause for concern."
At the last general election, 31 year-old Dáithi Ó Donnabháin, a solicitor, threw his hat into the ring, but failed to grab a precious seat. However, recently, Mr Martin has made Mr O'Donnabháin a rep for the party in Ballincollig. When asked if Mr O'Donnabhain was the "fresh new blood," that he was looking for to boost the party, Mr Martin said that was exactly the case.
Mr Martin, who is a former teacher, said there was a "notable presence" of teachers at the CNW meeting. "We have a lot of teachers supporting the party, and he added that already there were a number of new members, who were keen to put themselves forward for the general election.
When pressed on who the keen contenders were, he declined to name them. "I can't for the moment disclose who they are, but there was a healthy interest in Cork North West of young candidates who want to go forward for the election of 2014, and that for me was very encouraging," he said.
At the end of the interview, this reporter outlined that at present on a national level, the Fianna Fail party was at the bottom of a political mountain and just looking upwards.
With a laugh, he acknowledged this and said: "That is true, but there is only one way for us to go and that is up."