Row erupts between candidate Niall Blaney and Tánaiste at Fianna Fáil European election launch

Blaney and Martin in public disagreement over level of support offered by party on campaign trail

Tensions over Fianna Fáil’s three-candidate strategy in the Midlands-North-West constituency spilt over at the party’s European elections launch on Friday.

One of the candidates, Senator Niall Blaney, got into a public disagreement with Fianna Fáil leader, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, about the level of support he was getting from the party.

The party’s membership had voted for Laois-Offaly TD Barry Cowen to be its candidate at a selection convention in February.

Donegal-based Mr Blaney, who came second in that contest, and former Mayo TD Senator Lisa Chambers were later added to the ticket.


Earlier this week, Mr Blaney released a statement saying that Fianna Fáil is in “panic mode” after picking three candidates to run in the vast constituency.

Asked about tensions within the ticket, Mr Martin said it was “natural”.

He said he canvassed with Mr Blaney and with two local election candidates in Cavan, and has committed to canvassing with Ms Chambers.

Mr Martin denied it was a mistake to run three candidates, saying: “It’s a very large constituency and with very distinct geographies ... We believe we’ve made a correct decision in selecting three strong candidates who will compete strongly for seats.”

During the press conference Ms Chambers and Mr Blaney were asked whether if they feel supported.

Ms Chambers replied: “I don’t just feel supported. I am supported.”

She suggested Fianna Fáil is “in the mix and competitive for two seats”, adding: “There’s healthy tensions within the party because our ticket is competitive.”

Mr Blaney said: “Unfortunately I’m not getting the support the other candidates are getting ... and that’s a problem for me.

“I have never gotten any opportunity to be on national television yet. I’m the only candidate of six [Fianna Fáil European candidates] that has been the case.”

Mr Blaney said there is “a real opportunity now to take a seat in the Border and the Connacht counties, but we need equal support for the last two weeks. If the Tánaiste goes for a canvass, he goes for a canvass with all three ... I’m asking for equal opportunity and equal support”.

Asked for a response Mr Martin said: “I canvassed with Niall – the only person yet I think I haven’t canvassed with is Lisa.”

Mr Blaney chipped in: “Can I qualify that? The one with me was two other candidates, and I joined it.”

Mr Martin replied: “But that’s what I’ve done with all the candidates. All the European candidates are with local election candidates [on canvasses].”

Mr Martin added: “We will deal with how the campaign gets conducted after the press conference ... But there’s huge support for the candidates from the party.”

It has not been the only instance of infighting in a constituency where Fianna Fáil does not currently have a seat.

At the weekend, Ms Chambers criticised Mr Cowen for describing himself as the “lead candidate”. She called the remarks “dismissive and arrogant”.

Responding on Friday, Mr Cowen explained that he said this as he was the only one selected by a convention, adding: “It doesn’t mean I’m not out there trying to win votes the same as everybody else.”

Fianna Fáil’s other candidates in the European election are Billy Kelleher MEP and Cynthia Ní Mhurchú in the South constituency and Barry Andrews in Dublin.

Fianna Fáil’s manifesto includes a pledge enter the EU Migration and Asylum Pact – which the Government has already confirmed it intends to do – and another to advocate for EU funds to invest in infrastructure and services in communities hosting asylum seekers. Mr Martin said he did not have “specifics” in relation to how much funding could be sought.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times