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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 23 May, 2019
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No third time lucky for Micheál Martin as the Mary Hanafin debacle adds to Fianna Fáil woes

“I’m in. I’m in,” Hanafin declared earlier, despite requests from her party leader.

Mary Hanafin and Micheál Martin (File photo)
Mary Hanafin and Micheál Martin (File photo)
Image: graph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

IN THE PAST 24 hours, Micheál Martin twice tried to get Mary Hanafin to withdraw her name from the running for a council seat in the Blackrock ward of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. She refused. Twice.

In fact, it was the third time since Saturday that the Fianna Fáil leader had asked his former cabinet colleague to withdraw her name from the race.

But she was not for turning having been given “no good reason” for the dramatic and frankly farcical u-turn by the party hierarchy who had decided last Wednesday that it would be a good idea for Hanafin to put her name forward.

As Hanafin tells it, Fianna Fáil HQ became open to the idea of her running for the council – she had already indicated she would run for the Dáil again in 2016 – after seeing data which indicated a possibility of taking two seats in Blackrock, where the party’s Ógra president Kate Feeney is tipped to do well.

The party approached her on Wednesday, she slept on it, and on Thursday agreed for her name to go forward on the basis that her running mate Feeney should be informed of what was happening .

Even “at tea-time” on Friday Martin was happy with progress, according to Hanafin, yet it was later that night that she was told she should not let her name go forward following the recommendation of the party’s constituency committee.

In Fianna Fáil’s words Hanafin was told “in the clearest possible terms” that she should not let her name go forward. But it seems it was not clear enough as the former education minister decided to lodge her nomination papers on Saturday, hoping the matter could be sorted out.

Hanafin says that Martin called her on Saturday and asked her to withdraw her name. She did not.

He called her again last night and, again, she said she would not be withdrawing her name. It was a similar story this morning when Martin made what appears to have been a last ditch plea before the 12 noon deadline for a candidate to withdraw their name.

This, very obviously, makes Martin look weak as the leader of the party whereby those below him will not adhere to his requests. (It’s perhaps worth noting that Hanafin challenged Micheál Martin for the leadership of the party in the dying days of the last Fianna Fáil administration).

But more than that the farcical way in which this has been handled – whereby a candidate is asked to run, is given all indications that she should run, is given nomination papers and is then told not to run – does not reflect well on Martin, the party hierarchy or the general organisation at the highest levels of Fianna Fáil.

We have yet to hear Martin’s version of events. Asked this lunchtime if he would be speaking today, a spokesperson was unable to provide an answer. A meeting of the parliamentary party this afternoon heard “clarity” on the matter according to one well-placed source who would be supportive of Martin.

But consistently middling poll numbers, described as “brutal” by Hanafin herself, have done little to bolster Martin and there is a growing sense amongst some that he is fatally damaged by his links to the previous administration.

There are several TDs within the party who have leadership ambitions – most notably Michael McGrath and Dara Calleary, while PAC chairman John McGuinness has also made it known that he has leadership ambitions though he would be unlikely to have the backing of his colleagues.

The reality is that voters don’t care much for internal party squabbles.

But if Fianna Fáil has a poor showing on 23 May and, particularly in Dublin, where it does not have a single TD, then those internal party squabbles could spill over into full scale revolt against Martin’s leadership.

It’s on: Hanafin staying in race, despite Martin asking her three times to withdraw

Previously: Fianna Fáil: Mary Hanafin is NOT running in the local elections

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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