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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Micheal's women problems over with three hail Marys

Published 24/07/2014 | 02:30

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin

MICHEAL Martin must have awoken yesterday morning only to find himself in the grip of a severe attack of the deja vus.

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For there on the airwaves was a Fianna Fail Mary, dipping a tantalising toe back into the shark-infested waters of national politics, hinting about a return to the fray after losing her seat in the 2011 general election massacre.

But it wasn't Mary Hanafin, whose reappearance in May's local elections led to ructions and left the party leader with a new twist on his woman problem: from having not enough females running on the Fianna Fail ticket, he now had two candidates – the former minister and first-timer Kate Feeney – slugging it out in the same constituency.

It was the Other Mary, former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, who popped up on Radio One's 'Sean O'Rourke Show' which was broadcasting from the MacGill summer school in Glenties, skirting around the question of whether or not she was planning to throw her chapeau into the ring whenever the next election rolls around.

Mary wasn't of a mind to declare anything one way or the other. "I'm not sure – it's not a matter for me at the end of the day," she dodged. "I'm a big believer in whatever the party decides."

There was no doubt that she wasn't closing the door on the idea – not only was the door ajar, but she also had one foot through it. She stressed that she still enjoys politics and is involved on a local level. "I'd have a lot of people who would like me to go back, a lot," she declared.

"A lot of people in my party, more so outside of the party, people in the local area who would like to see me back in local politics," she added.

"If David hadn't passed away, I might be more gung-ho than I am."

This was a reference to the death of her husband David from cancer in December 2012, a time she admitted was "very tough" for her and her children, Meadbh and Cathal.

It has been a rough few years, but Mary has thrown herself into her local community; her home in the village of Frosses was an unofficial party HQ during the recent elections, and she's involved in the GAA club – crucial allies for anyone contemplating running for public office.

But what did her party leader make of Mary's shot across his bows – she graciously reckoned that he was "doing quite well" in his task of picking the tattered party off the floor.

Wasn't it all a bit too reminiscent of the Battle of Blackrock a couple of months ago when another member of the old guard, Mary Hanafin, insisted that she had received clearance to run as a local candidate while the party begged to differ and Micheal was left looking like a bit of a ditherer? And Mary Coughlan had been a staunch Cowen loyalist, right to the bitter, chaotic end.

As it happened, Micheal was also in Glenties; the previous evening he had taken part in a lively debate with Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald, and yesterday he was walking around the Highlands Hotel, shortly after Mary Coughlan had left the temporary RTE studio set up in the lounge.

He was all the Cs – cautious, circumspect and cagey. He was cagier than the animal enclosures in Dublin Zoo.

He hadn't heard the interview, he explained, but he thought her toe-dipping was "interesting". But he was at pains to stress that he had a lot of time for Mary Coughlan. "There's enormous goodwill towards Mary Coughlan throughout the constituency, throughout the country and throughout the party," he said diplomatically.

Micheal pointed out that said Fianna Fail hadn't done too badly in Donegal in the recent local elections, garnering 30pc across the county, which meant they have a shot at a second seat next time around.

However he said that picking a runner it isn't his decision, even though he's the boss. "I'm in a difficult position as I don't want to be endorsing one particular candidate over another," he regretted. "We'll be holding a convention and it will decide on a second candidate."

Ah, but what happens if it descends into another Mary-shaped fiasco? "Well, we did win two seats," he correctly pointed out. "But we don't want a repeat of that, and we have learned lessons from that."

If he says three Hail Marys, Micheal may even be able to persuade the third member of the former frontbench troika, Mary Harney, to rejoin Fianna Fail. Oh, and perhaps Mary O'Rourke could be persuaded out of retirement.

Women problem, what women problem? It'll be like old times. And they were the best of times, weren't they?

Irish Independent

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