Martin extends lead but FF leadership race remains open

MICHEÁL MARTIN remains the front-runner to be the next Fianna Fáil leader, with the number of TDs publicly declaring they will support him in tomorrow’s vote now in excess of 20.

Some 71 Fianna Fáil TDs will cast their votes at a meeting of the parliamentary party at 2pm tomorrow, meaning 36 votes is the target for each of the four leadership candidates.

The momentum seemed with Mr Martin with the number of declarations for him increasing. From a situation where 12 had declared for him over the weekend, that number rose to more than 20 by last night.

It is expected former Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe will also declare his support for Mr Martin, an intervention which could help swing a bloc of Brian Cowen’s allies to Mr Martin’s side.

The number of public declarations for Brian Lenihan, Mary Hanafin and Éamon Ó Cuív remained in single figures.

But, with a large number of TDs silent on whom they will support, anyone could yet mount a firm challenge. Even the two candidates who attract the least votes could have a crucial say as proportional representation is being used.

This means that TDs will rank their candidates from one to four in order of preference. The two candidates with the lowest amount of votes will be excluded, and their votes transferred then to the remaining candidates.

* Ms Hanafin will be proposed by Pat Carey and seconded by Maire Hoctor;

* Mr Lenihan will be proposed by Sean Connick and seconded by Thomas Byrne;

* Mr Martin will be proposed by Dara Calleary and seconded by Aine Brady; and

* Mr Ó Cuív will be proposed by Eamon Scanlon and seconded by Micheal Kitt.

Declarations to date:

* Mary Hanafin: Pat Carey (Dublin North West), Maire Hoctor (Tipp North)

* Éamon Ó Cuív: Eamon Scanlon (Sligo-North Leitrim), Micheal Kitt (Galway East), Frank Fahey (Galway West).

* Brian Lenihan: Sean Connick (Wexford), Thomas Byrne (Meath East), Mary O’Rourke (Longford-Westmeath), Martin Mansergh (Tipp South).

* Micheál Martin: Dara Calleary (Mayo), Aine Brady (Kildare North), Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central), Noel O’Flynn (Cork North Central), Michael McGrath (Cork South Central), Ned O’Keeffe (Cork East), Michael Ahern (Cork East), Christy O’Sullivan (Cork South West), Michael Moynihan (Cork North West), John O’Donoghue (Kerry South), Timmy Dooley (Clare), Willie O’Dea (Limerick East), Peter Power (Limerick East), Sean Power (Kildare South), Michael Fitzpatrick (Kildare North), Chris Andrews (Dublin South East), Sean Ardagh (Dublin South Central), Sean Haughey (Dublin North Central), Barry Andrews (Dun Laoghaire), Sean Fleming (Laois-Offaly), Beverly Flynn (Mayo), MJ Nolan (Carlow-Kilkenny), John McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny).

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