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Martin facing potential embarrassment in FF's clash of heavyweights

MICHEAL Martin may be facing his first embarrassment as Fianna Fail leader with a Dublin headache that refuses to go away.

The Cork man was widely praised within the party last night after convincing outspoken backbencher Noel O'Flynn to retire in favour of younger blood.

But Mr Martin faces a major backlash in the capital where officials have identified four constituencies with too many candidates.

The new leader will now have to facedown high-profile names like Mary Hanafin, Barry Andrews, Conor Lenihan and even Bertie Ahern's old pal Cyprian Brady.

If he is able to convince any of the above to step back or move constituency it would be a major show of strength.

However, a source said: "It is unlikely that any of the eight TDs involved in the Dublin standoff will budge.

"Party headquarters has its preferred candidates in each of the constituencies but it's not that easy."


The biggest problem is in newly downsized constituency of Dun Laoghaire where Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin is pitted against Children's Minister Barry Andrews.

Mr Martin is expected to hand one of these two the position of his deputy leader and give a massive boost to their election chances.

A source told the Herald that it was hoped that one would move to the five-seat Dublin South constituency where Fianna Fail has only Senator Maria Corrigan on the ticket.

However, both ministers appear determined to remain in their current constituency and risk losing both seats.

At her own campaign launch yesterday, Ms Hanafin said: "I have nothing to bring to Dublin South."

In Dublin South West, the party has junior minister Conor Lenihan and popular Charlie 'TD for Tallaght' O'Connor on the ticket.

They pull votes from different parts of the constituency but the party hierarchy believes there is "no way" they can take two seats this time around.

Mr Ahern's old Dublin Central stomping ground of is one of the most intriguing internal battles as the ex-Taoiseach's pal Cyprian Brady faces a serious challenge from Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick.

"Mary got more first preference votes than Cyprian in 2007 but he rode into the Dail on Bertie's coattails," explained a source.

At their selection convention last week Mr Ahern admitted that he would "worry about whether we will get one [seat]".

The final Dublin region where Fianna Fail is tempting its own meltdown is Dublin North where 'Young Turk' Darragh O'Brien is up against Michael Kennedy.

The younger politician is hotly tipped for a frontbench position when Mr Martin hands out the jobs today. O'Brien is seen as part of the "new generation" of Fianna Fail TDs.

The party suffered another significant blow in Donegal last night when Niall Blaney sensationally pulled out of the election race and Tanaiste Mary Coughlan was forced to deny that she was quitting.

The move was rumoured for several days in the build-up to last night's convention and Mr Blaney cited "personal reasons".

Local councillor Charlie McConalogue was chosen to run but the Blaney name may still appear on the ballot paper if Niall's brother Liam is added to the ticket.