Saturday 24 June 2017

Martin to face TDs' wrath over 'Gaybo for President' fiasco

Presidential hopeful Michael D Higgins on a walkabout on Moore Street, Dublin, yesterday, with Noel Gregory
Presidential hopeful Michael D Higgins on a walkabout on Moore Street, Dublin, yesterday, with Noel Gregory

Sam Smyth and Fionnan Sheahan

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin faces a finger wagging today for giving Gay Byrne a VIP invite to take the party presidential nomination -- but his TDs and senators will still give a thumbs-up to his no-candidate policy.

Nominations opened yesterday for the presidential election after October 27 was confirmed as polling day.

And a Cabinet minister wants to see the Dublin West by-election held on the same day as the presidency -- but no decision has been taken yet.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan gave the go-ahead for candidates to be formally nominated if they get the support of 20 TDs and senators, or four councils.

Fianna Fail's lunchtime meeting in Leinster House on the party's approach to the presidency will also discuss organisational structures and policy matters -- but members are intent on letting off steam on the botched approach to Byrne.

A succession of speakers will let the leader know he made a serious error of judgment bypassing his 36 colleagues in the Oireachtas before making a personal deal with the broadcaster.

"He will be told he should have phoned his colleagues before committing the party to backing Gay Byrne," a party TD said yesterday.

"There are only 36 of us in the parliamentary party and he could have called to tell us, or even phoned some of us to call others what he was going to do."

Embarrassment

The party's deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv will reprise his view the party should run an internal FF candidate in the election but make it clear he is not seeking a nomination.

Fianna Fail senator Mary White will agree with the view that the party runs a candidate and will stress the point that parties are in the business of contesting elections.

Some Munster senators will also take the opportunity to criticise the leader as a way of showing their support for MEP Brian Crowley, who acrimoniously dropped out of the race last week.

The senators will link the embarrassment of the botched Gay Byrne candidacy to the humiliation it visited on Mr Crowley -- but they admit that Mr Martin's leadership is not under any threat.

All but a handful of the parliamentary party believes Mr Martin has won the argument on the presidency and are prepared to concede to his analysis.

And the party leader will use all of his powers of communication to explain why running a candidate would not only be a waste of money but a bad political decision. The party will also have to decide whether or not it will support an Independent for the Aras when it is not fielding a Fianna Fail candidate.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar wants the by-election in Dublin West, prompted by the death of Brian Lenihan, to be held on the same day as the presidential election.

"I don't know for definite. There isn't a decision taken on that formally. But, as you know, under the new legislation it has to be held within six months of the vacancy.

"Also when we were in opposition, we very much took that view that vacancies should be filled within six months. And it would make financial sense, and also to save a day of school work, that it should be held at the same time as the presidential and the referenda rather than going back to the polls in January," he said.

Meanwhile, Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins received the backing of Noel Gregory, the brother of the late Independent TD Tony Gregory.

Mr Gregory said: "Michael D is enough of a maverick to justify my endorsement of him on Tony Gregory's behalf.

"It is not an endorsement of coalition Labour and its current policies."

Irish Independent

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