FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin last night fired a warning to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that the party will take swift action if there are any negative findings against him in the Mahon Tribunal report.
Distracting from the controversy over the resignation of Eamon O Cuiv as deputy leader over the EU fiscal treaty referendum, Mr Martin clearly moved to distance himself from Mr Ahern on the opening night of Fianna Fail's Ard Fheis.
By marked contrast, the FF leader specifically praised the role of his predecessor, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, for his "commitment and contribution to Irish public life".
Both Mr Martin and Mr O Cuiv received warm receptions from party grassroots members at the RDS.
Mr Martin promised delegates at his party's Ard Fheis that he was determined they would never be let down by "low standards" again.
"When the final report of the Mahon Tribunal is published, we will act without fear or favour against anyone who is shown to have abused their position in Fianna Fail or in elected office. Action will be swift and comprehensive," he said.
Mr Martin's comments are a clear sign that the party is preparing to cut Mr Ahern loose if there are any adverse findings about him in the final report, which is expected within weeks.
Mr Ahern was registered to attend but was not in the audience in the RDS for Mr Martin's speech.
His two brothers, former Dublin North West TD and junior minister, Noel Ahern, and former councillor Maurice Ahern, were present.
Mr Ahern led the party to three successive general election victories and he appointed Mr Martin as a cabinet minister for 11 years.
Fianna Fail is going to introduce a new code of ethics -- but it already has the power to expel a member for misconduct.
Mr Martin declined last night to single out Mr Ahern by name or to say if those criticised by the tribunal would be expelled from the party.
"I'm not going to go into the actual specifics. We await the outcome. But the import of what I am saying is very clear indeed," he said.
Mr Martin's promises to take tough ethical action were greeted twice with applause by party members.
But there was also a round of applause for the arrival of Mr O Cuiv, who had been sacked as deputy leader for his decision to oppose the fiscal compact treaty.
Mr O Cuiv said last night that he did not know how many party members backed his stance.
But he clearly ruled out a leadership challenge against Mr Martin as he declared his "love" for Fianna Fail.
"I'm here in full support of Micheal Martin's leadership. He is the undisputed leader of the party," he said.
During his speech, Mr Martin specifically referred to Mr O Cuiv's famous grandfather, former Taoiseach and Fianna Fail founder Eamon de Valera, when he talked about how the party had always stayed true to his vision for Ireland's future.
And he emphasised that Fianna Fail had always been a pro-European party as he called for a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum.
"This party must stand by its principles and core traditions," he said.
Mr Martin announced another U-turn by declaring that FF would now call for the retention of the Seanad in this year's planned referendum -- having promised to abolish it last year in its election manifesto.
"We believe that the Seanad has a role to play and should be reformed rather than abolished. It should be smaller and more efficient; salaries should be reduced," he said.
Mr Martin got another round of applause for his tribute to former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan for his determination to "find the right way forward to Ireland".
IT'S almost exactly a year to the day when there were buckets of Fianna Fail blood on the floor of the election count centre in the RDS, a battlefield where many Soldiers of Destiny perished on the sharp end of the vengeful electorate's peann luaidhe.