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FF leader rejects criticism of party by Mary Hanafin

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Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin

Brian Farrell

Mary Hanafin

Mary Hanafin

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Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin has rejected a claim by former minister Mary Hanafin that voters are "absolutely not" ready to return the party to power.

But Mr Martin admitted the party need to improve its performance after Ms Hanafin launched a scathing attack on members of the FF frontbench.

Ms Hanafin, a newly elected councillor for Blackrock, said that members of the public cannot even name some of the party's top politicians.

"If I can't name who they are, the public definitely can't," she said in an interview with the Irish Independent last week. Several Fianna Fail figures last night claimed Ms Hanafin's remarks have caused deep anger within the party and have further isolated the former deputy leader.

And speaking at the party's annual think-in in Roscommon, Mr Martin said he disagrees with Ms Hanafin's "analysis" of the state of Fianna Fail.

"We have more work to do, we certainly can improve and we are going to improve. We're going to, particularly in terms of other policy areas, develop robust and strong policies to take on that challenge," he said.

"I don't agree with Mary Hanafin's analysis. But I do welcome criticism. As leader of the party, I facilitate people to speak their minds but I wouldn't agree with the analysis," he added.

But Mr Martin's admission that Fianna Fail needs to improve in the run up to the general election comes after another opinion poll suggests that the party is failing to make ground with the electorate.

The Cork TD rejected that his own leadership will be brought into question if the party fails to win either of the upcoming by elections in the Dublin South West and the Roscommon/South Leitrim constituencies.

Mr Martin said he wants to lead Fianna Fail into government - but appeared to rule out a coalition with Fine Gael.

"The Fine Gael party, in our view, has been very regressive and very right-wing in their policies, and they would not in any way shape or form be comfortable bed fellows with us," he added.

Separately, Mr Martin accused the Government of misleading the Dail in relation to the health budget.

The Fianna Fail leader said the warning by the HSE that planned savings in the area of medical cards could not be achieved showed the government "cooked the books on health". He was referring to correspondence between HSE chief Tony O'Brien and the Department of Health in which Mr O'Brien warned that the 2014 budget and service plan for the health service was "unsafe and unrealistic".

Irish Independent