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The party leadership, no doubt seeing this election as another opportunity for the electorate to humiliate Fianna Fail, were less than enthusiastic. Then Brian Crowley got into a huff and announced he was no longer interested. In desperation the party leadership sought an independent candidate of unimpeachable popularity whom they could nominate - Gay Byrne - doyen of Irish TV broadcasters. After toying with the idea and his ego for a while Gay Byrne, now 77, eventually turned them down, leaving the party leadership with even more egg on its face.
Some Fianna Failers - chiefly Deputy Leader Eamon O'Cuiv - party traditionalist and grandson of party founder and former President Eamon De Valera - felt that Fianna Fail might become totally irrelevant to the national conversation if they didn't field a candidate and challenged the leadership position. An obscure Senator, Labhrás O'Murchu, a social conservative and traditional music promoter sought a Fianna Fail nomination to run as an independent.
No doubt noting his standing at 1% in the polls, the party leadership refused to back down - but not before Eamon O'Cuiv threatened his resignation and suggest there might be a need to look beyond Fianna Fail for national renewal. Seeing Fianna Fail in absolute turmoil and finally deciding not to field a candidate, Sinn Fein suddenly decided to put their best candidate in the field, despite the fact that Martin McGuinness is currently serving as Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland. (They had previously speculatied about putting up a much lower profile candidate Michelle Gildernew which may have lulled Fianna Fail into a false sense of security).
This means that Sinn Fein will be central to this campaign with fianna Fail nowhere to be seen - and still falling in the opinion polls. Sinn Fein, Labour, and Fianna Fail are all now at about 15% in the polls. With Labour becoming increasingly unpopular because of their role in implementing austerity measures and Fianna Fail sidelined, the path is now clear for Sinn Fein to supplant both and become the second largest party in the country - even if they only put up a respectable showing in this election.
Index of Frank's Diaries
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