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Fianna Fail could decide election - by dropping out

MICHAEL D Higgins, Mary Davis, Martin McGuinness, Gay Mitchell and Sean Gallagher must have been happy campers after the meeting.

The 33 members of the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party backed Micheal Martin in his desire not to have the party nominate any candidate. This meant that Norris and Dana, who needed some of those votes to get their names on the nomination papers, were finished.

For Martin it was an important result. Barely a few months in the job he had a threat to his leadership over the presidency. A cabal of right wingers were using the presidential nomination process as a means to assert their authority.

You have to ask why FF got into a mess over the presidency? Your party has been decimated in the worst ever electoral defeat in history. You are hated the length and breath of the country. So to screw up even further you decide to start a mini war to assert your moral power. That is what the FF right wingers did.

This war, over who FF should have nominated, is made more stupid by the fact that FF cannot even afford to run a candidate. It is in debt to the tune of €2.3m. It needs an election like an Anglo golf outing. It would only humiliate the party further.

Yet Senator Labhras O Murchu wanted to run under the FF banner. Micheal Martin had to do a deal. O Murchu steps down and FF don't back anyone.

Now peace has finally broken out in the Soldiers of Destiny's ranks. Unfortunately Fianna Fail are at 10pc in the polls and Sinn Fein have taken their slice of the cake. Running Martin McGuiness is an attempt to cut FF off at the kneecaps. If the SF man comes in second they will regard it as a success.

Dana has more chance of winning the Eurovision again than of getting a nomination. Norris will get some Independents onboard but is still short of the 20 votes. And that leaves the Famous Five.

Mary Davis was the dark horse with a growing presence. However, the entry of McGuiness means that Davis and Sean Gallagher will face an uphill struggle. This is not a first past the post race. Transfers will be important.

So you may be looking at Gay Mitchell heading the first round with Michael D and McGuiness vying for second.

Michael D will hope to pick up any left-leaning McGuinness transfers if and when the Sinn Fein candidate is eliminated.

McGuiness might hope to pick up Sean Gallagher's FF-tinged votes. Gay Mitchell will poll high in Dublin but does not command any rural loyalty.

The more transfer-friendly Michael D is therefore the favourite. However, Phil Hogan pulled a stroke by calling the election on a Thursday.

This means Michael D loses a lot of the students who won't travel home until Friday. Meanwhile, Gay Mitchell's Dublin voters will turn out in high numbers. So Fianna Fail, a party that has been neutered, changed the shape of this election.

Ironic now that Micheal Martin can only sit and watch from the sidelines as the Famous Five Run For The Park.