'I'm not worried by support for Martin'
Lenihan says: 'Fianna Fail could be back in power sooner than expected'
"I'M running for the leadership," Finance Minister Brian Lenihan declared yesterday to the Sunday Independent, minutes after the Taoiseach's news conference in Dublin, thereby throwing down the gauntlet of challenge to frontrunner Micheal Martin.
He said that, under his leadership, Fianna Fail stood the best chance of doing what was right for the country, whether they were in government or in opposition.
"I am not at all perturbed by the fact that some deputies have declared their support for Micheal Martin. In my view, the party should not be bounced by public declarations on a secret ballot next Wednesday. What matters in the end is the ballot of the Fianna Fail Dail Party," said Mr Lenihan, who will hold a news conference in Dublin today.
Mr Lenihan said he was taking this step after many approaches from members of the Fianna Fail Dail Party, and he believes his support in the Dublin, Connacht and Leinster area is "very strong", although he acknowledged that it was "a bit weaker" in Munster, the Martin heartland.
"If we are in opposition, it is important that Fianna Fail is truly the main voice of opposition, and the reality is that economic policy is crucial, and that we will be constructive and positive in that role.
"It is not a healthy position for our democracy if you have Sinn Fein and a number of Independents leading the opposition in the House. This would be very damaging to any prospects of sound management of the economy, and I think there is huge public understanding of that.
"But nothing can be taken as certain in the present situation, and it is not impossible for Fianna Fail to come back into government sooner than many people think.
"If this happens, I will lead the country with conviction to implement the right economic policies for recovery,' he said.
"It is essential that confidence and hope is restored to the Irish people.
"It is my determined intention to lead the way in restoring our country's belief in itself, and then bring about an instant transformation to our morale, ushering in a new climate of optimism as the economy turns towards recovery," he added.