Micheal Martin: health scandals take heavy toll and damage his leadership chances
THERE was a time when Martin seemed a mere shoo-in to the party leadership.
All the party's golden boy had to do was continue to cultivate party and public support as he bided his time.
Just two years ago he was the star of the Ard Fheis at Killarney when he pledged the smoking ban would be introduced in 2004.
During his keynote speech on Friday night, Martin recalled the rousing support for the smoking ban two years ago.
And after a brief recital of the Government's performance on job creation, he settled for knockabout stuff about the opposition parties.
It was hardly challenging stuff. And then he disappeared.
Throughout Saturday as ministers mingled with delegates, colleagues and media, Martin appears to have taken a day out from the glad-handling, not returning until that evening for his leader's address.
It has been a bruising time. Martin has suffered a lot of collateral damage from his period as Minister for Health.
And remarkably, most of it has happened since he left the Department that Cowen once branded as "Angola" because of the political land mines.
First it was the scandal over the illegal charging of patients in nursing homes leaving the State with a ?1bn compensation bill. More recently it has been the ?150m fiasco of the botched PPARS computer system. In both cases he was in the opposition firing line and while he came out fighting it has damaged his standing.
But Martin still has one issue which could help put him back into the frame.
If he scraps the Groceries Order and replaces it with a strongly pro-consumer regime it will give him a much-needed boost. Any element of fudge, however, will only weaken his position further.