Connemara based TD Éamon Ó Cuív failed in his bid to become the eight leader of Fianna Fáil yesterday, despite speculation over a last minute surge in support.
The new leader of the party is former foreign affairs minister Michael Martin, who himself lost a leadership challenge to Brian Cowen only last week. Minister Ó Cuív is understood to have come second.
There were four candidates for the position of party leader - Minister Ó Cuív, Dep Martin, and ministers Mary Hanafin and Brian Lenihan. Of the four, Minister Ó Cuív is the only one who is seen as having a ‘safe seat’, as pundits argue the others’ seats are in jeopardy.
Despite this, from the start of the contest, Dep Martin was the clear favourite and bookies were paying out odds on him in advance of yesterday’s vote.
Yesterday afternoon though, there was strong speculation that many former Brian Cowen supporters were rallying behind Minister Ó Cuív, the grandson of Éamon de Valera who founded the party in 1926 after splitting from Sinn Féin.
The view was that the Galway West politician would be a “good man to bring the party back to basics” and that he is someone who has gone around the constituencies listening to the views of ordinary members. His loyalty to Brian Cowen over recent months would not have gone unnoticed by Cowen-ites either.
However Dep Martin prevailed and it is understood that he was elected after three counts, with Minister Ó Cuív, the runner up.
The first count figures were Martin 33, Ó Cuív 15, Lenihan 14, and Hanafin 10. After Ms Hanafin’s elimination and the distribution of her votes, Mr Lenihan and Mr Ó Cuív were level but the Finance minister was eliminated on the basis of having had a lower first count figure.
Dep Martin must lead the party into an election campaign where it will face the unprecedented wrath of the electorate after 13 years in power, the collapse of the Irish economy, and the handing over of sovereignty to the EU/IMF.