Martin moves to pull party out of presidential race

MICHEÁL MARTIN moved to pull Fianna Fáil out of a presidential election crisis and phoned party members to discuss problems about now backing a candidate for the Áras.

In a dramatic move, Mr Martin called members and discussed difficulties about now entering the race after he failed to get presenter Gay Byrne to run with the party.

Despite Fianna Fáil MEP Brian Crowley looking like the only candidate that the party can now back, Mr Martin discussed several reasons for not backing someone for the Áras.

One parliamentary member, who wanted to remain anonymous, outlined a phone conversation yesterday with the party leader.

“We were saying the same thing to each other,” he said. “We are wasting time running a candidate. I agreed with him [Mr Martin] that our candidate would not win, we would spend half a million euro or so on the campaign and probably get a worse result than the general election.”

Recent internal party research has shown Mr Crowley polling in the low teens, with 9% of that support coming from Munster.

But some TDs yesterday said that Mr Crowley would be the only candidate south of the Galway-Dublin line and therefore would be in a position to pick up many votes.

Other TDs and senators want to minimise any fallout from Mr Byrne’s refusal to run for FF and focus on rebuilding the party ahead of the 2014 local elections.

Mr Martin is understood to have also talked to one of Mr Crowley’s close advisors in the last two days, where difficulties over running the MEP were outlined.

Fianna Fáil Limerick TD Niall Collins last night detailed his concerns about the party backing a candidate.

“We’ve little chance of being elected and there’s the cost. And we don’t want to come last or second last. The next big issue is the locals [elections].”

Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness confirmed Mr Martin had called him yesterday to discuss the fall-out after the recent presidential race developments.

“It would be extremely difficult for FF to win the presidential election. He [Mr Martin] shared the same concern that everyone has. It’s not if we can win, it’s where we’ll come in the race.”

Wexford TD John Browne though said there was support for Mr Crowley to run as did fellow MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher.

FF party whip Seán Ó Fearghail yesterday said the committee to decide the party’s presidential election strategy will meet within two weeks.

Former minister Mary O’Rourke also played down reports of damage done to Mr Martin’s leadership of the party, after his declaration of support for presenter Gay Byrne.

Meanwhile, GAA legend Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh is now considering a late entry into the presidential race after Mr Byrne’s decision not to run.

The 80-year-old former RTÉ commentator has reportedly received approaches from political parties in recent days and was also on a wish-list for Independent TDs.

He told reporters: “I haven’t ruled out anything but even at the dogs last night, I almost left with the number of people that were saying it to me. I will give it a bit of consideration but it’s a major undertaking.”

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