Saturday 25 February 2017

Fianna Fail in crisis? Former TD says Michael Martin's leadership offers voters 'no policies, no traction and no identity'

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Micheal Martin
Micheal Martin
Former Fianna Fail TD Noel O'Flynn

FORMER Fianna Fail backbencher Noel O’Flynn said the party is cannibalising itself as he claimed Michael Martin’s leadership has offered Irish voters no policies, no traction and no identity.

Mr O’Flynn, who served as a Cork TD for 14 years until 2011, warned that Michael Martin was only ever “an interim leader”.

The veteran politician also warned that the party will only ever be able to successfully renew itself if it moves on from those in power during the Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen era.

Mr O’Flynn emphatically ruled out ever standing for Fianna Fail again – but admitted he is seriously considering standing in the next General Election, possibly as an independent.

Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin with Newly elected Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow Kilkenny, Deputy Bobby Aylward (wearing purple tie) pictured arriving at Leinster House this afternoon with members of the Fianna Fail Party
Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin with Newly elected Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow Kilkenny, Deputy Bobby Aylward (wearing purple tie) pictured arriving at Leinster House this afternoon with members of the Fianna Fail Party

It is the latest blow for Michael Martin after the controversy surrounding Senator Averil Power’s resignation from the party over the marriage equality referendum campaign.

In an interview with Red FM, Mr O’Flynn was scathing of current Cork politicians.

“The current TDs are not standing up for Cork. In my day it was trying to do something. Now it is about trying to be someone. Why are they afraid to speak out? I was never afraid to speak out in the issues that affect people and their lives.”

Mr O’Flynn accused Michael Martin of failing to honour an agreement with him in 2011 to support his son, Councillor Kenneth O’Flynn, in a Seanad campaign in return for Mr O’Flynn agreeing not to defend his Cork North Central seat.

“I voted for Micheal Martin in the leadership. But I said three years ago that he was an interim leader.

“I am still of that view. Micheal has the same difficulty because he was in Government for 14 years and sat at the Cabinet table.”

Former Fianna Fail TD Noel O'Flynn
Former Fianna Fail TD Noel O'Flynn

He said the current leadership is still viewed by Irish voters in light of the leadership regimes of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen.

When asked if the FF leader had broken his Seanad promise to him, Mr O’Flynn replied: “Absolutely.

“Let the people decide on that one (leadership).”

He said he was appalled at what had happened to FF over the past few years.

“Look at what has happened with FF since 2011 – they have no traction, they have no identity, their policies are not acceptable to the public.”

“It reminds me of the Conservatives when Maggie Thatcher was drummed out of the leadership in the 1990s. John Major took over and you had nothing but in-fighting, jockeying for position in that party. You had them cannibalising each other just like Kenneth said in a paper the other day.

“Then they lost power and all the old members had to be got rid of or retired. It took the Conservatives another 14 years to get back as a party of Government.”

Mr O’Flynn, who served as a FF official for 23 years, ruled out any comeback within the party.

“I will never stand for Fianna Fail again – that’s correct. It would be unlikely for Sinn Fein or Fine Gael. But it’s quite possible (as an independent).

“I was never part of the herd – I was always someone with individual views.

“The public are saying to me to please come back and help with the brain drain, help bring our sons and daughters back from overseas.

"Help them with the problems that matter to them. No-one else seems to care.”

Mr O’Flynn (63) did not defend his Dail seat in Cork North Central in the 2011 General Election

He was first elected to the Dail in 1997 and ranked as one of FF’s most outspoken TDs.

Mr O’Flynn was a staunch critic of first Bertie Ahern and then Brian Cowen.

He only stood down as a TD after being asked by Micheal Martin not to run in the last General Election to save a FF seat in Jack Lynch’s old Cork northside constituency.

The seat was subsequently held by former Junior Minister and FF TD Billy Kelleher.

Mr O’Flynn later accused Mr Martin of reneging on a deal to support his son, Councillor Kenneth O’Flynn, in his 2011 Seanad election bid.

Councillor Kenneth O’Flynn took the Cork City Council seat previously held by his brother, Gary O’Flynn.

Gary O’Flynn took the seat surrendered by his father when the dual-mandate regulations came into force.

Councillor Kenneth O’Flynn is now Cork’s Deputy Lord Mayor and has signalled an interest in a Dail campaign.

Noel O’Flynn runs one of Ireland’s most successful motor industry supply firms from Kilnap outside Blackpool in Cork.

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