Friday 25 May 2018

Hanafin: FF members have called on me to 'influence' party policy

Mary Hanafin raised the prospect of a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition Photo: Tom Burke
Mary Hanafin raised the prospect of a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor and Barry Lennon

Former minister Mary Hanafin has claimed she has been personally approached by Fianna Fáil members urging her to take a direct role in devising party policy.

In a clear message to Fianna Fáil headquarters, Ms Hanafin says she was inundated with support at the party's ard fheis by members who, she says, want her to return to the main political scene.

And Ms Hanafin has once again raised the prospect of a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition after the election in a stance that is in direct contrast to the position of party leader Micheál Martin.

Senior Fianna Fáil sources say they are concerned that Ms Hanafin is contradicting Mr Martin in a bid to undermine his leadership.

Mr Martin has completely ruled out doing business with either Sinn Féin or Fine Gael in a move that continues to cause deep unease at all levels within the party.

The Irish Independent reported yesterday that other parties will try to "marginalise" Mr Martin in a bid to present him as a leader preparing for another spell in opposition.

Senior party figures, including John McGuinness and Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher, have said the party should be wary of ruling out coalition options.

And speaking on RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland', Ms Hanafin said the party should only rule out doing business with Sinn Féin, and not Fine Gael.

She said she believes Fianna Fáil could "work with" Fine Gael - but warned that a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition could potentially feed into Sinn Féin's hands.

"My only difficulty with going into government with Fine Gael, because I think you could work with them except we'd have to bring them very clearly back on the road to fairness and equality, would be that you would leave the way open then if you had a coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, you'd leave the way open the following time for Sinn Féin to be the main party and that would not be in the best interests of the country."

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Hanafin said she has been approached by members "wishing me well and urging me to try and influence party policy and the party's direction". She also denied a report that she exchanged angry words with Mr Martin at the ard fheis over suggestions she would not be given a front bench position, if returned to the Dáil in Dún Laoghaire.

Mr Martin delivered his ard fheis speech in emphatic fashion on Saturday night. However, concern over his leadership is intensifying.

Several Fianna Fáil politicians believe the election is effectively a referendum on his leadership and that failure to secure at least 35 seats will prompt a heave.

Such a prospect was rejected yesterday by the party's director of elections, Cork TD Billy Kelleher.

"There are extraordinary headlines from time to time. I often wonder where they come from. We have already discussed this as a party after the local elections and a couple of weeks ago," he told Séan O'Rourke on RTÉ radio.

"I am quite definite that people returned to the Dáil, that those Fianna Fáil politicians will be very confident that the leader will have performed well because they are part of the parliamentary party."

Mr Kelleher said that his party would not prop up a Fine Gael-led government if both parties currently in power failed to make up the numbers required.

Irish Independent

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