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Why are all these Fianna Fáil-ers making a comeback?

Analysis: Fianna Fáil wants to blood new candidates but is also relying on the old guard in some constituencies.

FF comeback kids Mary Hanafin, Conor Lenihan, John Curran and Seán Haughey could all be back in the Dáil next year

FOUR YEARS AGO, Fianna Fáil lost over 50 Dáil seats in an unprecedented general election wipeout that brought an end to many long political careers.

TDs all over the country bore the brunt of voters’ anger at the collapse of the economy. Conor Lenihan was one of those deputies who lost his seat, in Dublin South-West, but he’s now among quite a few who could be on the verge of an unlikely comeback.

Lenihan is considering whether to put his name forward for the party’s nomination in the new three-seat Roscommon-Galway constituency. His father Brian Lenihan senior was a TD for Roscommon in the 1960s prior to moving his political base to Dublin West.

The Lenihan name carries some weight in the constituency but whether it’s enough to convince local party members that the former minister is worthy of the nomination is another thing.

Lenihan said this morning he is gauging party interest. If there isn’t enough it’s pretty likely he will not stand. But expect him to keep us guessing for a few weeks yet.

All across the country former Fianna Fail ministers are finding that the hostility and anger they faced on the doorsteps four years ago has largely gone.

At that time many deputies were forced to contend with national anger at how the country had gone from economic boom to bust and into a humiliating international bailout programme.

This eclipsed a lot of the good work many a Fianna Fáil TD had been doing locally for years, making sure the potholes were filled, the medical cards were got and the school was built. Very few ‘good constituency TDs’ were saved from the mass FF wipeout.

Four years on and many of the Fianna Fáil voters who, in the words of Phil Hogan, lent their vote to Fine Gael in 2011 may be considering giving them back to the Soldiers of Destiny.

This benefits some of those who’ve maintained their profile in their constituencies over the last few years and are now seeking a Dáil return.

One of those is Pat The Cope Gallagher, who lost his MEP seat last year but yesterday put his name in the ring for the party nomination in Donegal. Many local observers say the former junior minister represents the party’s best-chance of a seat in the redrawn five-seater.


In Dublin Mid-West, former government chief whip John Curran emerged from the shadows to take the Fianna Fáil nomination and has a fighting chance of taking a seat there.

As you’ve probably heard, Mary Hanafin is seeking the party’s nomination in Dún Laoghaire. Private polling indicates she represents the party’s best chance of winning a seat. But the former education minister may struggle to win the nomination and if she were added to a two-person ticket it could dilute the Fianna Fáil vote.

Former junior minister Seán Haughey is waiting to hear if he will be added to the party ticket in Dublin Bay North where he was pipped to the nomination by local councillor Deirdre Heney with just a handful of votes in it. Again, private polling indicates he would have the best chance of a seat.

Pat The Cope was an MEP from 2009 to 2014 and never had to bear the brunt of voters’ anger in 2011. He is considered an extremely hard-working and effective politician in Donegal. In an interview on Highland Radio on Monday he delivered a lengthy list of issues he’d be campaigning on from mortgage distress to broadband.

Elsewhere, the likes of Hanafin and Haughey have strong historic Finana Fáil links and stand to capitalise on what many believe is a slow but steady drift of voters back to the party.

It isn’t all plain-sailing for former FFers plotting a comeback though. Former minister Martin Mansergh failed to secure the party’s nomination in Tipperary earlier in the summer. While the likes of former tánaiste Mary Coughlan and former ceann comhairle John O’Donoghue have flirted with the idea of a comeback but now appear likely to sit this one out.

But it seems being part of the last government is no barrier to political resurrection. Whether any or all of those making a comeback will be part of the 32nd Dáil remains to be seen.

Read: Conor Lenihan is Fianna Fáil’s latest comeback kid

Read: Can Fianna Fáil ‘Cope’ with this ex-minister’s comeback?

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