Martin plans Seanad purge in drive to freshen party's image
FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin last night appointed three TDs to work on getting new party candidates appointed to the Seanad as he looks to purge his older senators.
The vastly reduced Fianna Fail parliamentary party -- including newcomers Barry Cowen, Charlie McConalogue and Robert Troy -- met in Leinster House for an election post-mortem.
Meanwhile, a group of Independents also met to take the first steps towards establishing a Dail group that would give them greater speaking time.
The FF meeting mostly focussed on Mr Martin's strategy of clearing out the Seanad of older members and getting failed, younger Dail candidates into the upper house instead. He appointed three TDs -- Timmy Dooley, Eamon O'Cuiv and Billy Kelleher -- to work on getting Fianna Fail candidates elected to the Seanad after he selects them.
Two TDs, Brendan Smith and Seamus Kirk, were absent from the meeting, but the other 18 were present.
There will be a meeting of the party's national executive tomorrow night to rubberstamp Mr Martin's Seanad strategy.
He is facing resistance from some senators who are meeting today to devise a strategy to cling on to their seats.
Mr Martin also told TDs he will appoint an interim frontbench in the coming days but will replace this after the Seanad elections in April, appointing some senators as party spokespeople.
In his Seanad selections, he will have to address the fact that Fianna Fail has no women TDs and only one deputy in Dublin.
Names being tipped for the upper house are former Dublin North Dail deputy Darragh O'Brien, Mary Hanafin, Mary Fitzpatrick and Averil Power.
"Some of the older senators like Francie O'Brien and Camillus Glynn have said, yeah, that's the way to go, but others won't be as easy," an FF source said.
"We talked about how we have to make the most of the Seanad and put people in there who can make it to the Dail.
"Everyone at the meeting was supportive of that," the source said.
Mr Martin also said the party's finances aren't as bad as was being made out. It had been widely reported that FF was €3m in debt.
Meanwhile, the first steps to form a Dail group from among the large number of Independent TDs were taken last night.
Seven TDs -- Mick Wallace, Finian McGrath, Catherine Murphy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, Stephen Donnelly and Shane Ross -- held a meeting and contact others in the 19 strong group of TDs outside the major parties.
Donegal South-West's Thomas Pringle was not at the meeting but he is understood to be keen on entering the group.
Another meeting will be held next Tuesday which Joe Higgins and the other three United Left Alliance TDs will attend.
The leader and deputy leader of the group will be selected then.