Dublin: Micheal Martin The People’s Favourite For Leadership Of FF: UPDATED

25 Jan

MOST RECENT: NEWS UPDATE:

HIS THREE rival candidates in the battle to succeed Brian Cowen as Fianna Fáil leader have conceded that Micheál Martin is the “the leader in the clubhouse” ahead of tomorrow’s leadership vote by the party’s 71 TDs.

But all are convinced that there is a large block of deputies – 33 as of last night – who have made no public declaration or have yet to make up their minds.

And all three – Brian Lenihan, Mary Hanafin and Éamon Ó Cuív – have pursued a deliberate strategy of asking their supporters not to publicly identify themselves.

“It’s not good if it’s just going to be candidates collecting pledges,” said a supporter of one of the candidates yesterday. “There is a very serious question to be determined: who leads Fianna Fáil out of this crisis? And I think at the very least that deputies should hear each candidate out before making the final decision.”

It is for that reason that huge emphasis has been placed on the presentations that each candidate will make to the parliamentary party this evening. His rivals believe that notwithstanding Mr Martin’s huge lead, a sufficient number can be swayed by the presentations.

All four candidates have personally telephoned the party’s TDs, with some, particularly Mr Martin, in touch with colleagues more than once. Mr Lenihan has not yet spoken to all the TDs – he has found that his time was limited because of negotiations on the timetable for the Finance Bill.

Ms Hanafin’s message to party colleagues has focused on renewal and reorganisation. She has focused on the need for Fianna Fáil to rediscover the social element of its identity, saying the party must be seen as not just about the economy. She has also pointed out if she were elected she could become the first woman leader of an Irish political party.

She has also argued that she can bring in younger members, pointing to this as one of her great strengths, given her background as a teacher, and her deep involvement in the past with Ógra.

Mr Lenihan has talked about being a leader in the Lemass mode when talking to colleagues. He has placed huge emphasis on his wherewithal and knowledge of the finance brief.

He has told colleagues that the big issue for the party and indeed, for the country is that Fianna Fáil remain a substantial and cohesive political force in Irish life.

He has argued he is uniquely placed to mobilise traditional Fianna Fáil supporters.

Mr Ó Cuív has referred to his strong organisational and administrative skills as well as his ability to build consensus. He has argued that Fianna Fáil needs to articulate a new vision of the future which builds a strong economy while giving social protection.

He has also argued for a root and branch rebuilding of Fianna Fáil.

For his part, Mr Martin has also focused on rejuvenation and reorganisation of the party. He has reminded colleagues of his ministerial record, particularly the successes with the smoking ban and the second Lisbon Treaty campaign.

He has also told colleagues that Fianna Fáil was the party that provided opportunities to ordinary Irish people, that he and his siblings were the first generation of his family to go to second level, and indeed to third level, education. He has argued the party must rediscover those roots.

Six more deputies publicly declared for Mr Martin yesterday bringing his total to 26. Among those who declared for him yesterday were former minister Batt O’Keeffe, Minister of State Barry Andrews, Christy O’Sullivan and John McGuinness.

The Meath Deputy Thomas Byrne and the Dublin South West TD Conor Lenihan both pledged their support for Mr Lenihan yesterday, bringing his total to six.

———————

Former foreign affairs minister Micheal Martin remains in pole position to win the leadership of Fianna Fail.

Martin favourite to win leadership Enlarge photo

Four candidates have been officially nominated for the post, left vacant when Taoiseach Brian Cowen dramatically stood down after a week of political chaos.

While Mr Martin remains a clear favourite, respected Cabinet members Brian Lenihan, Mary Hanafin and Eamon O Cuiv believe they also have the backing of enough party colleagues to win the contest.

The new leader, the eighth since the party was founded in 1926, will be elected by secret ballot on Wednesday.

Mr Martin, from Cork, was proposed by Dara Calleary and seconded by Aine Brady.

The rebel TD, who failed in a heave against Mr Cowen last week, has insisted he has the energy, passion and commitment to lead Fianna Fail into a general election and beyond.

Dublin-based Finance Minister Mr Lenihan, who is battling cancer, was proposed by Sean Connick and seconded by Thomas Byrne.

He put Fine Gael and Labour on notice that with him at the helm of Fianna Fail the election campaign will be no walkover, warning he will fight them in every corner of the country.

Ms Hanafin, Tourism Minister and also in control of the Department of Enterprise, was proposed by Cabinet colleague Pat Carey and seconded by Maire Hoctor. The Dun Laoghaire TD said she wants to lead a renewed movement which encourages young people and women.

Elsewhere, Mr O Cuiv, from Galway, aspires to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Eamon De Valera, founder of Fianna Fail and the country’s first Taoiseach. He was was proposed by Eamon Scanlon and seconded by Michael Kitt.

NEWS UPDATE:

Two more Fianna Fáil TDs, Cork East’s Ned O’Keeffe and Dublin Northwest’s Noel Ahern, announced their decision not to contest the next election tonight.

Mr O’Keeffe made the announcement at tonight’s selection convention when his son Kevin, a sitting member of Cork County Council was selected to replace him on the ticket in the four seat constituency.

Mr O’Keeffe senior attributed the Fianna Fáil drop in the polls to the party’s dalliance with corporate Ireland saying that it had neglected the ordinary people.

Mr O’Keeffe’s decision to step down leaves Fianna Fáil with an even greater challenge in what is increasing looking alike a rather forlorn hope to hold its two seats.

Fellow sitting Fianna Fáil TD Michael Ahern was also selected to run last night and he paid tribute to Mr O’Keeffe whom he said he had worked well with over the 28 years together in Dáil Éireann for the benefit of the people in north east Cork.

Earlier Noel Ahern, announced he would also not contest the upcoming general election.

His decision means that Fianna Fáil will run only one candidate in the three seater constituency, the current Minister for Communications Energy, Equality, Gaeltacht Affairs and Transportation, Pat Carey.

It was unclear prior to the selection convention whether the party’s headquarters would instruct for one or two candidates to be selected.

In the end a potential standoff between the two TDs was avoided when Mr Ahern, brother to the former Taoiseach Bertie, announced that he would not seek a nomination.

The selection convention took place 8pm in the Ardmore Hotel in Finglas, Co Dublin.

Approximately 60 delegates were present, although there was, in the end, no need for a vote on which of the standing TDs would be chosen, as many had expected there might be.

Mr Ahern has been a TD since 1992 and makes his announcement only a few weeks after his brother also decided not to contest the next general election.

NEWS UPDATE:

THE WAY has been cleared for a general election on February 25th following agreement between the Government and main Opposition parties to get the Finance Bill through the Dáil and Seanad by the end of this week.

Agreement on the timetable for the Finance Bill was reached in talks at the Department of Finance yesterday between Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and the finance spokespersons of the other parties.

The deal involves the Finance Bill passing all stages in the Dáil by Thursday evening. All other business, including questions to the Taoiseach, will be set aside.

The Seanad will meet on Friday and Saturday to approve the legislation. The parties have agreed that if necessary the Dáil can meet again on Saturday evening if flaws in the legislation are identified.

Yesterday’s agreement between the parties originated with Green Party TD Eamon Ryan, who contacted Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney last Saturday offering to speed up the Finance Bill if Fine Gael and Labour would agree to defer their motions of no confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government.

Mr Ryan said the deal showed the political parties could do business in the interests of the country. “A bit of calm and order has been restored to the political system and that can only be a good thing,” he said.

Mr Lenihan also welcomed the agreed timetable. “I thank the Greens, Fine Gael and Labour for their constructive approach.” He also welcomed that agreement had been reached on an additional day of consideration in the Seanad to allow for appropriate reflection on the text and further consideration of the Bill.

“I think it’s a good day’s work, and it is important for the country that we are seen to unite at least in dealing with this measure,” he said.

The Minister said he would have preferred a fortnight to discuss the Bill but that once Opposition parties had cleared all other Dáil business, it was feasible to pass it in the time agreed. The motions of no confidence will be deferred until this day week and will be debated if the Dáil has not been dissolved by that stage.

However, the expectation is that Taoiseach Brian Cowen will go to Áras an Uachtaráin to seek a dissolution of the Dáil before those motions come up for debate. He is not obliged to go into the Dáil to announce his decision but he may do so at the start of business next Tuesday. Asked if the agreement on the timetable meant the general election would now take place on February 25th, Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan said he expected the Taoiseach would call the election on Sunday or Monday but added that Mr Cowen may want to go into the Dáil on Tuesday morning to deliver a valedictory speech: “I can’t predict, but it’s some time within that time frame,” he added.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said the tabling of his party’s motion of no confidence and the agreement on the timetable for the Finance Bill meant that the people would get what they had been demanding for many months, an early general election.

He said Labour remained strongly opposed to major provisions of the Finance Bill and would table amendments in the normal way. Independent TDs Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae will decide on their support for the Bill after a meeting with Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan today. Another Independent, Joe Behan, has already said he will back the Bill.

Earlier in Brussels the European Commission said it was important for Ireland’s credibility and stability that the Finance Bill was passed by the Dáil as soon as possible.

Devins, O’Shea to retire as TDs | 11/01/2011

FG TD Bernard Allen to retire | 19/01/2011

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