Martin's 'dictatorial' Seanad purge plan raises FF hackles
Published 03/03/2011 | 05:00
FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin is facing a rebellion against his "dictatorial" plans to purge older Seanad candidates ahead of the upcoming elections.
Mr Martin is planning to bring in younger people, particularly women, for the Seanad elections so that Fianna Fail will have a pool of strong Dail candidates for the next general election.
But although some of the older senators are standing down willingly, Mary White was among those resisting Mr Martin's plan yesterday.
"I think it's very undemocratic. I've been re-elected to Seanad Eireann and I think it's very serious to interfere with that process," she said.
Ms White, who has been nominated to run again for the Seanad by the Irish Exporters' Association, said she would be going ahead regardless.
"I have my nomination. I'm not withdrawing it. It's part of Fianna Fail's problem over the years, it has become dictatorial," she said.
Fianna Fail had 25 senators in the last Seanad but it is now pinning its hopes on getting just 12 elected because it has far fewer councillors and TDs to vote them in following its recent electoral defeats.
Fianna Fail senators held a meeting in Leinster House yesterday -- and then a further meeting with Mr Martin to voice objections to his plan to restrict the numbers nominated to run in the Seanad elections.
One Fianna Fail senator criticised the plan, saying Mr Martin was trying to do what he had failed to do during the general election campaign -- restrict the number of candidates to maximise the party vote.
Forty-three of the 60 members of the Seanad are elected by councillors, TDs and current senators. Thanks to huge Fianna Fail losses in the general election and the 2009 local elections, it has fewer votes. Mr Martin wants to run a smaller number of candidates to ensure the "chosen few" get into the Seanad. The issue is expected to be decided at a meeting of the Fianna Fail national executive tonight.
A Fianna Fail party source said Mr Martin was determined to get in new people who would be strong natural legislators and denied he was being "dictatorial". He said it was a question of acting strategically in the interests of renewing the party.
But veteran Fianna Fail senator Francie O'Brien (67) is one of those who will not be seeking re-election. He has been linked to an ongoing legal action by Ulster Bank for the recovery of €13.2m from Irish Nationwide.
He said his decision had "absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing controversy over bank borrowings for investment during the boom years".