Conor Lenihan: none of the favourites will lead FF
THE brother of one of the favourites to take over the Fianna Fail leadership has predicted the party will instead opt for a younger TD to succeed Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
Conor Lenihan, the junior minister brother of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, yesterday predicted none of the current frontrunners would be leader after the election -- and effectively told them all to 'put up or shut up'.
Brian Lenihan, Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin have all declared an interest in leading the party if there is a vacancy.
But Conor Lenihan said the party would skip the Bertie Ahern generation of politicians and go for someone younger.
"Those three or four individuals that have been speculated about as being potential leaders of our party, if they want to be leaders, they'd want to tell us very quickly because there is no point hinting at it and talking about it endlessly," Mr Lenihan told Newstalk radio.
"It will pass to younger people in the party who are out there, who are standing and who are prepared to put their names forward in this election."
But FF sources dismissed Mr Lenihan's idea and said it was more likely one of the three favourites would take over -- with Mr Martin seen as the most likely candidate. The new leader would then replace almost the entire frontbench, giving the party a fresher face.
But it depends on how many younger TDs make it back into the Dail after the General Election, which could see Fianna Fail reduced to 30 to 40 seats.
Younger TDs such as Darragh O'Brien in Dublin North, Limerick's Niall Collins, Cork South Central's Michael McGrath, Meath East's Thomas Byrne, Clare's Timmy Dooley and Cork North Central's Billy Kelleher are among those tipped to take more senior positions if they survive the election.
Mr Lenihan also said the string of high-profile retirements in Fianna Fail is demoralising the grassroots activists, and launched a thinly veiled broadside against Mr Cowen for not promoting younger TDs.
The party has been rocked by an exodus in recent weeks, with ministers Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey, as well as TDs Beverly Flynn, M J Nolan, Sean Ardagh and Rory O'Hanlon announcing they will not contest the General Election.
"The party activists that I work with day in, day out in my constituency are extremely annoyed at people who have had great jobs, great careers in Fianna Fail over the years and are now walking away at election time," Mr Lenihan said.
He also said "one of the failures" of the last few years was that not enough younger TDs had been promoted to senior ranks and he praised Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny for giving younger talent an opportunity.
Mr Cowen's reshuffle earlier this year, when he only promoted two older TDs, Pat Carey and Tony Killeen, to Cabinet was widely criticised within Fianna Fail as being too conservative.
It even led to a small rump of backbenchers sounding out the level of FF discontent with Mr Cowen.