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Wednesday 7 December 2016

FF stalwarts believe party should consider FG link-up, but Martin is not convinced

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin waves to supporters. Photo: PA
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin waves to supporters. Photo: PA
A man holds a leaflet at the party’s ard fheis at Citywest in Dublin. Photo: PA

Fianna Fail has been given a boost from two separate opinion polls which have shown small increases in support.

Loyal party members have been putting pressure on Micheal Martin to consider a coalition with Fine Gael.

But the party leader lashed out at their rivals in his keynote speech at the annual ard fheis, depicting them as a party which favours the rich.

The news from the polls cast doubt about a clear-cut election result and again raise the prospect of a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail - an option which has consistently been ruled out by both parties' leaderships.

A RedC survey put Fine Gael on 30pc, down two points, while Labour remained unchanged on 9pc. Fianna Fail was up two points to 19pc - the same score as Sinn Fein.

Recovery

The RedC poll in the Sunday Business Post puts Independents on 15pc - up one point. It reverses a recovery trend for Fine Gael which has gone on since last summer and again raises doubt about hopes for a Labour recovery.

The second opinion poll, by the firm Behaviour & Attitudes for the Sunday Times, puts Fine Gael on 31pc and unchanged from the last survey before Christmas. Labour is stuck on 6pc, down two points.

Fianna Fail is on 20pc, up one point, while Sinn Fein is on 16pc, down one point. Combined 'Independents and Others' are on 26pc, up two points.

At the Fianna Fail ard fheis, English political strategist Professor Tim Bale told delegates the party's recovery could take up to three elections.

He said a "good result" in 2016 would mean cutting the 19pc margin between it and Fine Gael in 2011 to single figures and keeping ahead of Sinn Fein. Prof Bale said the party was wise to rule out coalition with Fine Gael and Sinn Fein and advised concentration on policy issues in the campaign.

In his keynote speech Mr Martin said that Fine Gael and Labour were "arrogant and out of touch", taking credit for an economic recovery which was masterminded by former Fianna Fail Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

"(Taoiseach) Enda Kenny is a man fond of telling stories about men with pints and the army at ATMs. But the biggest fairytale of all is his claim to have delivered recovery," Mr Martin told the gathering in west Dublin.

"This government didn't deliver recovery - it delayed it and made it more unfair."

However, senior party members have reportedly told Mr Martin to reconsider coalition with Fine Gael or face a possible leadership challenge.

Former Education Minister Mary Hanafin said that Fine Gael should be considered as a likely partner in government, but only if Sinn Fein was the main Opposition party.

FF's John McGuinness said that a coalition with Fine Gael may be the party's best option.

Loyal stalwarts Timmy Dooley and Darragh O'Brien also said that the party should be open to discussions with Fine Gael if Fianna Fail is the larger party.

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