Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has admitted holding on to two of the four seats in Longford/Westmeath will pose a “significant challenge” to his party ahead of this Friday’s election.
The Cork South Central TD said worsening opinion poll results, typified by last week’s Irish Independent/Millward Browne Lansdowne survey which recorded the party languishing on 12 per cent had dealt a blow to its election hopes.
But Mr Martin was quick to dismiss fears Fianna Fail was in meltdown, arguing the point that some pockets of the country like Longford/Westmeath were returning better results than others.
“Obviously it is disappointing but we are going to fight very hard between now and polling day to ensure the maximum outurn for Fianna Fail in terms of seats and votes,” he said when on the canvassing trail in Longford last week.
In a surprisingly low-key visit to the county, Mr Martin opted for the relative calmness of local employer Butler Manufacturing Services on the Strokestown Road in which to kick off his party’s Longford/Westmeath election campaign.
Accompanied by its managing director, Seamus Butler, himself a former Fianna Fail councillor and incumbent Chamber of Commerce President, Mr Martin was led on a brisk walk around the wastewater treatment provider along with a host of locally elected representatives.
“There seems to be a significant difference between national polls and constituency polls across the country,” he told the Leader amid a media scrum. “In the individual constituency polls we seem to be polling higher.”
Pressed further about what plans he hoped to implement in predominantly rural-based counties like Longford and the chances of the party returning sitting TDs Peter Kelly and Mary O’Rourke, Mr Martin was confident especially about the chances of Mr Kelly holding on to his seat.
“He has a good track record here (in Longford) and I think he will do very well. Peter Kelly has always been very strong here and has worked extremely hard across infrastructural development and in education that we have witnessed,” he said.
“I was with Mary O’Rourke last week in Athlone. There is only one Mary O’Rourke and she is campaigning very strongly as well. It will be a very formidable challenge,” he said.
Mr Martin, however, played down suggestions the addition of Mullingar councillor, Robert Troy might have an adverse effect in terms of splitting its vote across the constituency, instead describing the Ballynacargy Postmaster as a “very effective” candidate.