Martin feels safe and expects good day for his party

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin believes his leadership is safe and that the results of today’s elections will demonstrate evidence of the party’s growth and renewal.

“I think it will be a good day for the party,” he said at a press conference yesterday with his finance spokesman, Michael McGrath — their last before Ireland goes to the polls.

“I am not understating the challenges we face, but the feedback on the doorsteps is of a much different order than it was in 2009.”

He rejected suggestions of botched vote management in Ireland South, where MEP Brian Crowley is polling 30%, while his running mate, Kieran Hartley, is on just 2%.

Mr Martin said the days of political parties being able to manage up to 40% of the vote are over.

“Commentators in the modern era overestimate the capacity to manage votes,” he said.

“You must allow people the space to make decisions.”

Mr McGrath said people would be naive to assume all of Brian Crowley’s vote is hardcore FF support.

“He is an immensely popular individual as a MEP over the last 20 years and a lot of his support is personal. But we are hoping Kieran Hartley will do better,” he said.

Mr Martin also rejected criticism of how the party handled the introduction of local election candidates such as former minister Mary Hanfin in Dublin, and his own constituency office secretary, Mary Rose Desmond, in Cork county, and his niece, Kate Martin, in Cork City.

He said the controversy around Ms Hanafin’s decision to run had just not come up on the doorsteps.

“I’ve been there. Not an issue,” he said.

“Local elections always create tensions. In 1985, when I contested my first local election, I was involved in a row, and went on to win the second seat.

“Rows happen in elections, and that’s natural. We will be competitive in Cork, and I expect a good result in Cork City and county. Geographically, we have well-placed candidates, with a good balance between women and younger people. The party is in recovery mode and we have a long way to travel. In the aftermath of this local election, you will see evidence of growth in the party, and critically, putting us in a very competitive position for the general election, where key people will emerge in a stronger position to contest the new Dáil constituencies.”

He declined to say how many seats the party will win, or put a percentage on the vote they will take.

“The key issue is not the numbers. It’s the quality of candidates coming through,” he said.

He urged the electorate to send a very clear message that they are not happy with the direction of government policy, to reject their attacks on the sickest and most vulnerable in society, and demand a fairer approach where raft of new charges is linked to people’s ability to pay.

“Fianna Fáil is offering credible, alternative solutions-based policies — we are not just opposing everything for the sake of it,” he said.

Mr McGrath said candidates have met “absolute carnage” on the campaign trail in relation to medical cards, and he attacked Sinn Féin.

“They have a clever marketing ploy that they are the party against austerity when of course nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

“For every budget this government has brought in, Sinn Féin has proposed an alternative austerity budget, with proposed taxes of up to €30bn at this stage.

“What they are saying is absolute nonsense in terms of the economy. We are very concerned that their policies would cost jobs. Soundbites are fine but soundbites will not resolve the problems this country are facing.”

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