#RealityCheck: Could Micheál Martin be in trouble?

Richard Chambers spends some time with the Fianna Fail hopefuls

Throughout the campaign, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has refused to budge from his mantra of ruling out a coalition with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.

That position could well lead to a hung Dáil and put him under pressure from his own front bench to do a deal and return the party to government.

So what happens if the polls play out and Fianna Fáil is called upon to enter coalition?

I went out on the road to speak to the party's TDs about the issue and the upcoming election.

One of those TDs I joined was the Fianna Fáil President as he canvassed voters outside mass in Turners Cross, Cork at the weekend.

He said there was an appetite locally to return a Cork Taoiseach but nationally, he stuck to the familiar refrain, a quick reminder of his position.

Will he be challenged over this?

There has been no shortage of TDs eyeing up the leadership over the past number of years.

Earlier in the week, Barry Cowen said he’d want to be leader at some point down the road and there is a section who believe Michael McGrath should be the leader.

There are TDs and candidates actively encouraging the party leader to take a more nuanced approach to the campaign. To be fair, the frontbench are giving Micheal Martin credit for how he’s handled the campaign so far.

However, outgoing Chair of the PAC and Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness has made no secret of his ambitions in the past.

I met him yesterday as he met Family Resource Centres in Kilkenny who are struggling to survive with funding cuts and higher demands for services.

He says the whole basis of this election campaign is misleading and the leaders of all the main parties are playing ‘games’ with the electorate by pretending they won’t entertain the idea of Governments with certain parties.

How tenable is that sort of deal with the party's membership?

Straight-talking has not been the message of the campaign to date but when it comes down to it, whatever way the party goes will be divisive.

There is almost a class or rural/urban issue based on where the TDs are; I’ve witnessed it myself on the doorsteps with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs out on the hustings over the past few weeks, a curiosity about a coalition between the two.

However, outgoing Galway West TD Eamon O Cuiv says grassroots members simply won’t go with Kenny and Fine Gael, tellingly, not the same level of rejection of Sinn Féin.


Could there be a heave against Micheal Martin?

Yeah, you could characterise it as being damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

There are plenty who’d look at the situation differently to John McGuinness, for example, and say well 'look, let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot by letting Sinn Féin dominate the opposition benches' and set themselves up for Government.

As Eamon O Cuív said, a flight of door-knocking volunteers and grassroots members in the event of a deal with Fine Gael would be very damaging to the party or the leader but you have to wonder then, would that be the price of playing politics rather than forming a stable government which wouldn’t be back before the polls within months?

So, if it came down to it, would there be a heave?

Possibly. Micheal Martin has backed himself into a corner is a familiar refrain, especially when it comes to getting the party to agree to any deal.

There's a lot of talk about ‘loyalty’ in Fianna Fáil. Billy Keller, Director of Elections, Billy Kelleher, has criticised people like O Cuív and McGuinness for being ‘disloyal’ or ‘juvenile’ for critical comments of the leader.

I put it to John McGuinness but asked if he still has ambitions to lead his party and to be Taoiseach.