FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin has for the first time raised the prospect of leading his party back into government after the next election.
He is also promising to stay at the helm of Fianna Fail for a decade, in a move that will surprise some of his younger TDs, who feel he is there in a caretaker capacity.
His comments on re-entering government will raise eyebrows and come after a year when Fianna Fail's support has risen over 20pc in opinion polls, making it the second most popular party behind Fine Gael.
A cohort of TDs and senators are in favour of staying in opposition for two Dail terms to rebuild after the mauling in last year's general election.
"There'd be trouble if he tried that," one said when told of Mr Martin discussing going back into power.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Martin said the task of rebuilding Fianna Fail was a 10-year project and that he intended to see the job through.
"I made this commitment at the outset when I took over the leadership of the party," the Cork South-Central TD said.
Mr Martin's statement will come as a surprise to some in Fianna Fail, who have seen him as a stop-gap leader who would soon pass the baton on to one of the new generation.
He said rebuilding the party would not be hindered by his leading it back into government – and has firmly ruled out appointing a deputy leader to replace Eamon O Cuiv.
Mr Martin said that he may lead Fianna Fail into power after the next election but that he won't be making any "reckless" promises like Labour did before the last election.
"I'm not going to do that for the next election. Likewise, I won't be making reckless comments and commitments either but the point is that after the election, if political parties are engaging or discussing, we would be issue-based and policy-based – we will then decide the best route for us to implement our policies."
When asked if he saw himself leading the party back into power, he said: "I may, I may not; it's not my driving ambition at this particular point in time.
"I want to create a political party that's different, that approaches politics in a different way, in a serious way, in terms of the issues, how we raise them, endeavouring to be constructive."
Mr Martin also rejected the suggestion that going back into office would get in the way of rebuilding the party.
"Not necessarily, that's all hypothetical," he said. "Firstly, we've decided we'd have a conference before we ever decided to go into government with other parties.
"Secondly, it has to be issues-based and policy-based. There have to be red lines for Fianna Fail."
Mr Martin said the party had learned from its past experiences of forming governments, when smaller parties came to negotiations with "red-line" issues.
"There was a tendency in the past, when other parties were coalescing with Fianna Fail, (they) had red-line issues and it's as if Fianna Fail was absorbing all of that.
"Fianna Fail will have its core issues going into the campaign, coming out of the campaign and it's not a question of just making up numbers and getting into power or anything like that."
But he said this did not mean the party was preparing to be the junior coalition partner in any government.
"Not necessarily – sure we don't know. There's a lot of volatility out there. The volatility isn't over. Politics is at a very low ebb now in terms of public perception.
"People are angry with the political system. They're very annoyed that no change has happened to the political system. They actually believed all parties had signed on for radical change."