Dublin: Sinn Fein Set To Take 15 Seats As FF Faces General Election Wipe-Out

19 Feb

FIANNA FÁIL leader Micheál Martin is to deliver a “do-or-die” speech tomorrow in a direct appeal to his party’s grass roots as the general election campaign enters its final week.

Separately, Fine Gael and Labour both moved to talk down the continuing row between the prospective government partners over their tax and spending cuts policies.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he was not interested in “spats” and point-scoring, while Labour’s justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said there were no insuperable obstacles to the parties forming a coalition.

Mr Martin’s speech tomorrow will form part of a drive this weekend by Fianna Fáil to try to shore up support for the party and reverse its continuing slide.

The initiative will include follow- up personal phone calls and e-mail messages to Fianna Fáil cumainn in a last-ditch effort to entice former core supporters back to the party during the final week of the campaign.

The speech, described by a strategist as a “moment of truth” event, will refer to the long history and electoral success of the party and repeat the argument made by Mr Martin when he challenged former leader Brian Cowen that the “very survival of the party” was now at stake.

“He will point out the history of the party and all it stands for and the sacrifices it has made. He will be making a direct appeal to the grass roots to return enough TDs to allow Micheál Martin to rebuild it once the election is over,” said the strategist last night.

Fianna Fáil will also appeal to voters to “think twice” about a single-party government led by Fine Gael and will also renew its attacks on Sinn Féin’s economic policies during the last seven days.

The strategist said that the party was concerned that Sinn Féin could win as many as 15 seats, many at the expense of Fianna Fáil.

“The Fianna Fáil strategy for the final week of the campaign is to appeal to its former core support . . . and make a case for rebuilding Fianna Fáil.”

Mr Martin plans to do 20 broadcast interviews over the next six days, including the final three-way leaders’ debate on RTÉ on Tuesday night.

After several days of escalating tensions between Fine Gael and Labour, Mr Kenny said yesterday he wanted to concentrate on his party’s five-point plan.

“The Labour Party [may] want to take sniping shots at Fine Gael from the sidelines. I’m far more interested in putting our case to the people,” he said.

Insisting that the arguments between the two would not prevent them forming a coalition, Mr Rabbitte said: “These differences are political, not personal.”

However he defended Labour’s “attack advertisements” in newspapers. He said many people he met were “worried about the implication of a single-party Fine Gael government”.

Earlier, Mr Martin said the country was witnessing a “widening chasm” between Fine Gael and Labour.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan claimed Fine Gael’s tax policies “had been cooked up on the basis of focus group analysis”.

He said Fine Gael portrayed itself as a low-tax party but it had “hidden taxes everywhere”.

Mr Kenny, canvassing in Cork, said unemployed people had nothing to fear from a Fine Gael government as the party’s priority was to get people back to work. He was responding to a call by the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed earlier this week for people not to support Fine Gael.

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