MICHEAL Martin's long-term future as Fianna Fail leader may depend on the party securing a European seat in Dublin, senior party figures believe.
There is now huge pressure on Dublin city councillor Mary Fitzpatrick to take one of the three seats in the capital if the party is to re-establish itself as a major political force.
Ms Fitzpatrick was tasked with introducing Mr Martin ahead of his keynote address at the party's ard fheis in Killarney at the weekend.
However, many within the party believe she faces an uphill battle in order to win a seat, given the stiff opposition.
Polling carried out by other political parties is alleged to show that Ms Fitzpatrick is lagging behind several other candidates.
The unofficial polls suggest she could potentially be beaten by Fine Gael's Brian Hayes, Sinn Fein's Lynn Boylan and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.
There is a real belief within certain sections of the party that Mr Martin's leadership will be openly questioned unless three euro seats are secured in May's elections.
However, the Dublin seat is seen as easily the most crucial given that the party has no TDs in the capital.
The party's former deputy leader Eamon O'Cuiv said he believed Fianna Fail is still in a "becalmed" state and that the "sustainability" of the party depends significantly on delivering a good result in the European elections.
He told the Herald: "A boat that is becalmed in the sea neither goes forward nor backward. That is a challenge for us. We have come up to a certain level but we seem to be at the same level.
"The next question is, how do we make the next big jump?"
Mr O'Cuiv said it is important for the party's recovery that Ms Fitzpatrick wins a seat.
"Fianna Fail was always a national party and we don't want to see, for example, not gaining back in Dublin.
"If we are not to gain back in Dublin, it will be a serious challenge for the party in the future."
Fianna Fail's leader in the European Parliament, Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher, agreed, telling the Herald that securing anything less than three seats would prove "worrying" for the party.