Martin brought down to earth as voters in west vent fury

THE honeymoon enjoyed by Micheál Martin in recent polls was abruptly ended as he crossed the Shannon to face anti-Government anger in constituencies.

The Fianna Fáil leader was aggressively heckled by a passerby at Galway’s Spanish Arch and pressed by local media in Clare to account for unfulfilled election promises made in 2007.

Mr Martin said he expected the anger to come with the well-wishes he received since he took over as leader of Fianna Fáil: “I am a politician. I get around. I walk around. I meet people. I have no doubt that people will articulate their concerns and indeed their anger about the situation, maybe their own personal situation or the situation of the country.

“On the other hand, I am getting a lot of good wishes from people and I am being received courteously and well by people, and warmly in some respects.”

In Galway, Mr Martin was tackled by a father who fears his son will have to default on his mortgage.

Later Clare FM news editor John Cooke visibly irked Mr Martin when he asked him where the €39m development Bertie Ahern had promised Ennis General Hospital in 2007 had gone to.

The confrontations contrasted with the reception from clearly energised supporters in Galway west and Clare, where Fianna Fáil faces a battle to retain one of two seats it holds in each constituency.

But he said in his first week as leader he had managed to arrest the decline in Fianna Fáil’s state of preparedness which initially prompted him to publicly withdraw confidence in Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

“I am leader six days, I am happy with the foundations I have now put in place, which will insure we will run a very energetic campaign,” he said.

He was speaking to the media in the Eyre Square Shopping Centre where he drank his green tea at the Sail’s Cafe.

However, on the first floor a crowd gathered to look down on him and cast judgment on Mr Martin’s effort to put distance between his potential leadership and the Government he was a part of.

Among them was James McArdle, aged 34. He had been working in a relatively new hotel in Galway until it shut down and he lost his job. Last autumn he went to GMIT (Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology) to retrain.

“I think he has some cheek. He is still Fianna Fáil... I never voted before but I will this time. And it will be anybody but the usual crowd,” Mr McArdle said.

Alongside him, John Laffey said as a pensioner Fianna Fáil had been good down through the years. He liked Mr Martin but he was 10 years too late.

Asked if he would vote for Fianna Fáil at the end of this month he said: “All has changed. I would have a job to answer that one.

“I voted Fianna Fáil all my life but I have my doubts now. But I suppose in the ballot box we’ll see,” he said.

A law student from Cork, who expects to have to go abroad as soon as he finishes his studies, said he was looking down on a nice man but there was no way he would get his vote.

Another bystander, Willie Hughes, was equally unimpressed.

“He was there when all the problems occurred,” he said.

Visiting Galway for the day, Elizabeth Kelly from Raheny was delighted the entourage did not have Enda Kenny at its heart.

“I love him [Mr Martin]. I would love him to be leader,” she said.

She was with two friends who hoped Fianna Fáil could make the ground back up now that it had a change at the top and quell the anger Mr Martin is beginning to witness.

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