independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Martin moves to end era of the FF leadership heave

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin

FIANNA Fail TDs will still hold the power to boot out their leader under new plans that will give the party grassroots a say in leadership elections.

Leader Micheal Martin confirmed new proposals on how Fianna Fail decides its leader – a move away from the traditional "heave" – would go before the party's ard fheis this weekend.

Current rules restrict the electorate in leadership ballots to party TDs, and contests can be decided in days. But Mr Martin favours giving ordinary members a say.

At the annual Fianna Fail Easter Rising commemoration in Arbour Hill yesterday, Mr Martin said he favoured a new, electoral college-style system, which could mean leadership contests could last weeks.

If the changes are to be implemented, it would make the Fianna Fail rules similar to those already used by Labour.

However, he confirmed the power to table a confidence or no-confidence motion would be "still in the gift of the parliamentary party".

The rule changes are contained in a paper that will be published in advance of the ard fheis, which takes place in Dublin's RDS.

Mr Martin has already introduced the 'One Member, One Vote' system for selecting election candidates.

Impact

"We're looking at an electoral college whereby obviously the parliamentary party would have a significant impact, but the members would have the members of the European Parliament, senators and so on," Mr Martin said.

But he stressed that no decisions would be taken at this year's ard fheis, and there would be a year's deliberation for members to consider the proposal.

"We're going to publish that paper in advance of the ard fheis, allow for deliberation at the ard fheis but crucially allow for a year's consultation," he added.

"I've set up a commission representing the different sections within the party and by next year's ard fheis we would have a firm proposal put to the ard fheis for adoption."

Other changes to go before the ard fheis include consulting the party membership on any future coalition deal the party may enter into.

Mr Martin said it would compel the leadership to "bring any programme for government back to the members".

"I think that's important because, as a party, we have clear principles, we have clear issues."

Mr Martin said the proposed changes arose while he took feedback from members on how to rebuild Fianna Fail after its general election meltdown two years ago.

There are also motions before the ard fheis on abortion, but Mr Martin has yet to take a position on the contentious issue.

"We haven't seen the details on the (abortion) bill; I'm not going to comment on speculation.

"We have committed to dealing with this in a constructive manner. We are a pro-life party."

Irish Independent

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