Thursday 27 April 2017

Martin accused of trying to 'boot out' senior FF senators

Micheál Martin. Photo: Mark Condren
Micheál Martin. Photo: Mark Condren

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Fianna Fáil senators are deeply concerned that party leader Micheál Martin is lining up to replace them with younger, female candidates ahead of the upcoming Séanad elections.

Mr Martin is expected to put forward his own set of candidates who will directly challenge the party's current delegation, some of whom have served in the Oireachtas for over three decades.

Several senior senators believe Mr Martin intentionally tried to "sideline" members of FF's senior Séanad team throughout the current Dáil term.

Mr Martin has done away with the traditional weekly parliamentary party-style meetings and has been accused of excluding senators by holding TD-only gatherings.

One senator last night said he was braced for attempts at an "extermination" of him and some of his colleagues.

A second senator said he suspected Mr Martin would try and "boot me out", pointing out that Mr Martin previously put forward a list of alternative candidates in 2011 - but the majority of councillors opted for sitting senators instead.

A third source said he felt the current crop of sitting senators, bar the odd exception, was excluded from having any significant role in shaping the party.

"The fact that there is a frontbench meeting each week, rather than a meeting of the parliamentary party, speaks volumes as to how the leadership view us," he added.

Candidates

The party has 12 sitting senators. Mary White, Thomas Byrne, Darragh O'Brien and Marc MacSharry are all Dáil candidates. Several others, including Labhrás Ó Murchú, Terry Leyden, Mark Daly, Denis O'Donovan and Ned O'Sullivan, are expected to be challenged by leadership candidates.

There is a widely held view throughout all levels of the party that a number of new candidates will be encouraged to run for the Seanad if they are unsuccessful in the General Election.

These include councillor Jennifer Cuffe, who is running in Wicklow/East Carlow, as well as Aoife Byrne (Wexford) and Lorraine Clifford-Lee (Dublin Fingal).

All three candidates were added to the ticket in order to ensure Fianna Fáil satisfied the controversial gender quotas.

The Séanad elections are scheduled to take place just weeks after the Dáil elections.

As revealed by the Sunday Independent, Government figures are deeply concerned that they will lose control of the Séanad to Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have significant sway in councils across the country after impressive local election performances.

As the majority of senators are elected by councillors, both parties could potentially swing the balance of power in the Séanad in their favour.

Fianna Fáil did not respond to queries from the Irish Independent last night.

Irish Independent

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