Tuesday 20 February 2018

Martin appalled at Ahern criticism of FF grassroots

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Fianna Fail's efforts to distance the party from ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern escalated last night as leader Micheal Martin openly attacked the former party boss.

Ahead of the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report in the coming weeks, Mr Martin fired the first shots.

Mr Martin said he was "appalled" at criticism by Mr Ahern of the party grassroots, which he said was "unacceptable".

Mr Ahern branded some members of the local party organisation in Dublin Central as "useless".

The comments follow Mr Ahern's suggestion he would have fared well in the presidential election if it wasn't for the party's unpopularity.

The response to the publication of the tribunal report is regarded as a crucial test of Mr Martin's leadership.

In a forthcoming TV3 documentary on the demise of Fianna Fail, Mr Ahern defended himself strongly against claims that big personalities such as he took over the party and ran personal organisations to win votes. "A lot of people (Cumainn members) had tea parties in the '70 and '80s and met to discuss the state of the world, including Ireland. But as far as building up the Fianna Fail vote in these areas, they were useless," he said.

Yet again defending his leadership of the party, Mr Ahern singled out a cumann in Dublin's north inner city during the 1970s. He said the members were not northsiders and were frightened of crossing the Liffey.

"They were afraid to come into Sean McDermott Street, to drive through it, never mind canvass it. So, quite frankly, they were a bunch of useless good-for-nothings," he said.


Mr Martin said he was not aware of the comments -- but that he would be appalled to hear the party grassroots described in such a way.

"That would be a completely unacceptable comment to make," he said.

Mr Martin said he had great respect for every member of Fianna Fail and was trying to encourage people to enter public life. "I would be appalled if that description was made of any party member," he said. "Members of cumainn are the life blood of politics."

The three-part series on 'The Rise and Fall of Fianna Fail' begins next week. The documentary tracks the story of the 'Soldiers of Destiny' from independence through to the present day.

Irish Independent

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