Micheal Martin keeps up brisk pace but is ready to bide his time

A seasoned campaigner, Micheal Martin is known for his speed.

Elected to the Dail in 1989, he has pounded the pavements in Cork South Central for over 30 years, and he moves quickly.

His brisk pace leaves journalists and staff running to catch up, and he can talk at a similar speed when he wants to.

But on Sunday night at Nemo Rangers GAA club, where his son Micheal Aodh, is currently a goalkeeper, Mr Martin was taking it all at a laid back canter.

General Election Ireland 2020
General Election Ireland 2020

Elected on the sixth count, hours after Sinn Fein’s Donnchadh O Laoghaire, Mr Martin, flanked by his two sons and daughter, his wife Mary slightly behind, was raised on the shoulders of his supporters and threw his arms up in celebration.

Back on the ground and a quick kiss for his wife, the time for celebration was over, as he warned us all to start taking it easy.

A furore had begun hours earlier after Mr Martin appeared to at least unlock the door to speaking to Sinn Fein about entering government but then stopped short of opening it entirely.

“I think people are jumping the gun,” he said.

“We’ve got to wait for all the counts to be in, the destination of those last seats because the respective strengths of parties is going to be a key determinant in terms of what follows.

“That said, today’s a day to let the election happen, let the election unfold, let people enjoy their elections and so on.

“In the cold light of day, tomorrow and the day after, we will assess where we are, because I am not taking anything for granted.

“I am very conscious our first priority is to assess how we are doing and how we’ll actually do, we’ll know all that tomorrow.”

Mr Martin took his time to thank his supporters, he held their hands as he spoke to them one at a time, he was hugging older women and shaking the hands of the men around him.

At one point he is pulled for another on camera interview, but pulls away to thank another passer-by who extends their hand, and takes a picture with a woman who calls him her “second son now”.

Journalists clamoured for media plans, doorsteps and interviews, but were told by an aide that spending time with the family and “decompressing” is priority number one.

Before leaving, asked about his prospects of becoming taoiseach, he laughed: “Who knows?”