Cowen tells Martin not to canvass in his constituency

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen told Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to concentrate his efforts on other constituencies because his presence was not needed to secure seats in Laois-Offaly.

Mr Martin said the decision for him not to canvass in either Mr Cowen’s or in Tánaiste Mary Coughlan’s constituencies was not because of animosity from the recent heave.

Mr Martin said he had spoken to the Taoiseach about the party’s prospects in Laois-Offaly and he was told the new leader’s profile would not be necessary in its effort to retain three seats.

“In terms of the Laois-Offaly constituency there are strong people, including Brian Cowen, who is working extremely hard. And Brian would say to me ‘look we are going to deal with the situation here and we will secure the seats here’.

“We have been in touch on that and he wants me to focus on areas where I may be required,” Mr Martin.

He also rejected suggestions the party’s decision not to send him to either of the Donegal constituencies was a slight on Ms Coughlan, because she was seen as a close ally of Mr Cowen.

He said Ms Coughlan had been with him for the education policy launch, they discussed the seat prospects and it was felt Fianna Fáil would win a seat in both halves of Donegal.

“Mary Coughlan is deputy leader, Tánaiste of the party. We are actually running two good campaigns and we are confident of retaining seats in both constituencies,” he said.

The party leader said strategists thought it was best to apply him in areas where candidates were more vulnerable.

“The team at headquarters are targeting constituencies obviously based on our research to ensure we can both retain and secure seats in those particular constituencies,” he said.

Up to today’s trip to Louth, Mr Martin had visited 25 constituencies since the starting gun fired. But he has missed high-profile battlegrounds such as Donegal, Wicklow, Tipperary South, Dun Laoghaire, Laois-Offaly and a slew of Dublin areas.

His only visit to Limerick City was for a late-night rally. And he has not canvassed in Bertie Ahern’s former stronghold in Dublin Central.

Mr Martin said the bias towards some parts of the country, particularly outside Dublin city, was not evidence of resignation that the party would be decimated in the capital or a fear of the city’s more volatile electorate.

He said canvassing has not played as strong a part in this campaign because of media commitments.

“The balance in this campaign very strongly has been getting out and about, which I have, but also I have been very available in terms of going into every studio in this city [Dublin] and across the country to face every interviewer without preconditions.

“We have been in Dublin North, I started the campaign in Tallaght and I have been out in Dublin South and other constituencies and we are not finished yet,” he said.

Mr Martin said the final hours of the campaign would be focused on those who have yet to make up their mind. “It is still interesting that there is close to 20% who are undecided, that is a very significant number so late in the campaign,” he said.

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