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'My position not in doubt' says Martin

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin has rejected former minister Mary Hanafin's assessment of the party's support as "brutal".

Mr Martin batted away suggestions that his leadership was in question, despite his party's woeful standing in the opinion polls in Dublin.

Speaking at a party manifesto launch yesterday for the local elections, he said he "did not agree" with Ms Hanafin, who earlier this week described the party's support of 9pc in Dublin as "brutal".

"We have to be careful about interpreting polls. I am under no illusions of the challenges facing the party, but I don't agree with her assessment, I would have a different perspective," he said.


Mr Martin refuted suggestions that because of the poor poll ratings he is facing a heave, saying his position as leader of the party is safe.

"No, it's not at stake. The decline of the party did not happen in the past few years, it has been coming for quite some years," he said.

"We lost that seat in 2009 when we were stronger. We are under no doubt of the challenge. We have a strong candidate in Mary Fitzpatrick. It is going to be challenging."

There has been increasing disquiet with the party over its failure to capitalise on various scandals to engulf the Government in recent months, and many see the local and European elections as make or break for Mr Martin.

He denied that he was lowering expectations ahead of the elections, after he highlighted how weak the party is in the capital.

Mr Martin said that the party is "way behind" the other main parties in terms of support, but that he is confident that the party will have a good election on May 23.

He added that because of poor electoral performances by Fianna Fail in 2004, 2009 and 2011, the party's starting position in Dublin "is a lot weaker" than the other parties.

Asked about his preferred candidate for the upcoming by-election in Dublin West, Mr Martin gave considerable mention of one candidate, councillor David McGuinness, despite a convention taking place on Monday.


"In terms of Dublin West, that would ultimately be a matter for the delegates in Dublin West. Clearly, David McGuinness performed very well in 2011, performed above expectations, if truth be told. He did very well," he said.

He rejected the suggestion that he was displaying a bias against Anita Lenihan, the sister of the late Brian Lenihan, in his comments praising Mr McGuinness.