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Micheal Martin should lead Fianna Fail into next election, says minister

The party received just 5% of first preference votes in a disastrous by-election result in Dublin Bay South.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin is facing pressure following Fianna Fail’s poor showing in the Dublin Bay South by-election (Liam McBurney/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin is facing pressure following Fianna Fail’s poor showing in the Dublin Bay South by-election (Liam McBurney/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin is facing pressure following Fianna Fail’s poor showing in the Dublin Bay South by-election (Liam McBurney/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin should lead Fianna Fail into the next general election despite the party’s disastrous result in the Dublin Bay South by-election, a Government minister has said.

But Education Minister Norma Foley conceded there is a “job of work to be done”, after the party received just 5% of the share of first preference votes.

Labour Party candidate Ivana Bacik was elected on the ninth count at the by-election on Friday, while Fine Gael received 26% of first preference votes, and Sinn Fein 15%.

The result has prompted speculation over Mr Martin’s future, with TD Jim O’Callaghan casting doubt on his leadership and former agriculture minister Barry Cowen requesting a special meeting of the parliamentary party.

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Education Minister Norma Foley said Micheal Martin should lead Fianna Fail into the next general election (Niall Carson/PA)

Education Minister Norma Foley said Micheal Martin should lead Fianna Fail into the next general election (Niall Carson/PA)

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Education Minister Norma Foley said Micheal Martin should lead Fianna Fail into the next general election (Niall Carson/PA)

Appearing on RTE’s The Week In Politics, Ms Foley said: “After any election there is going to be a post-mortem and it was not a good day for Fianna Fail. There is a job of work to be done.”

Ms Foley was asked if she thinks there are 10 TDs in the party who would sign a motion against Mr Martin.

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She responded: “No, not at all. This has not been a good result for Fianna Fail but there is a responsibility on all of us within the party to get down to the job of work which needs to be done.”

Micheal is a very experienced, solution-focused leader. We see the benefit of that in Government, we also see the benefit of that in Fianna FailNorma Foley

Asked if Mr Martin could lead the party into the next general election, she said: “Absolutely. Micheal is a very experienced, solution-focused leader. We see the benefit of that in Government, we also see the benefit of that in Fianna Fail.”

The result brings the Labour Party’s strength in the Dail to seven.

Party chief whip Duncan Smith told the programme: “Politics is a results-based game. It was such a positive campaign, we were in a good position going in and Ivana was an amazing candidate.

“A number of years ago maybe the Labour Party might have sunk her, I think it’s important to note that the Labour brand did not damage the campaign, the Labour brand is coming back.”

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Labour’s Ivana Bacik makes a victory speech to supporters after being declared the winner in the Dublin Bay South by-election (Brian Lawless/PA)

Labour’s Ivana Bacik makes a victory speech to supporters after being declared the winner in the Dublin Bay South by-election (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Labour’s Ivana Bacik makes a victory speech to supporters after being declared the winner in the Dublin Bay South by-election (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Duncan said gender was a major factor in the result.

“There is a genuine desire to see more gender-balance across the Dail, across the Seanad, across the county councils.”

Meanwhile Mr O’Callaghan, Fianna Fail’s director of elections, told RTE’s This Week programme that he would not sign a motion of no confidence in the party leader.

He said: “The question we need to ask is ‘why are we not connecting with the electorate’?”

Asked if he had been approached by anyone to sign a motion of no-confidence, he said: “That hasn’t happened and I wouldn’t.”

Mr O’Callaghan said he is interested in leading the party, but would not do anything to undermine Mr Martin.

“I believe it’s an honour and a privilege (to lead the party), but I’m not going to do anything just to undermine the leader or give the media an impression that there’s something going on when I don’t think there is,” he said.

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Fianna Fail’s Jim O’Callaghan said he would not sign a motion of no-confidence in Micheal Martin (Niall Carson/PA)

Fianna Fail’s Jim O’Callaghan said he would not sign a motion of no-confidence in Micheal Martin (Niall Carson/PA)

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Fianna Fail’s Jim O’Callaghan said he would not sign a motion of no-confidence in Micheal Martin (Niall Carson/PA)

On Friday, Mr Martin rejected suggestions that his leadership is under threat.

He said: “Governments rarely win in by-elections. They are not markers in terms of what happens at the next general election.

“This constituency is not our strongest constituency, it never has been.

“The Government is now going to focus at the issues at hand, dealing with Covid and making sure we can facilitate the recovery of our economy and jobs and prioritising housing and healthcare.

“We are busy getting substantial work through the Dail.”


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