McGuinness: Martin in no doubt that I want to be next FF leader
Embattled Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is struggling to hold the party together after John McGuinness confirmed he wants his job.
In a major blow to Mr Martin's leadership, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has openly spoken about wanting the top Fianna Fail job.
Mr Martin is now facing dissent on several fronts as the party battles to regain some lost ground from the 2011 General Election.
Poor poll ratings, particularly in Dublin, have caused concern for local candidates at a time when there are also several internal tensions.
Fianna Fail's annual Easter Rising commemorations at Arbour Hill were overshadowed yesterday by reports that Mr McGuinness 'dropped a bombshell' after being asked to run in the European elections.
The Carlow/Kilkenny TD refused on the grounds that if he were in Europe, he wouldn't be able to contest the leadership.
Mr Martin attempted to laugh off the reports yesterday, but Mr McGuinness told the Irish Independent: "Well, I did say that to Micheal Martin, we did have that conversation, so he knows my views."
Responding to questions about a possible leadership challenge, Mr Martin said: "Well, many people have ambitions, Fianna Fail always have, so that will be one more. My focus is on doing the best we can in the local and European elections."
When pressed as to whether Mr McGuinness directly warned him of wanting his job as leader, Mr Martin replied: "I don't want to comment too much on the article."
Several other high-profile names within the Fianna Fail parliamentary party are also understood to be interested in the job, should a heave take place after the May 23 elections.
However, Fianna Fail's transport spokesman, Timmy Dooley, who is seen as one of Mr Martin's closest allies, said there was no likelihood of a challenge to the leader.
"I don't think there is any potential challenge to Micheal Martin's leadership. What is not often recognised about John McGuinness is that he has a fantastic sense of humour and I would take the comments in the paper to be just that," he said.
"I think there is a considerable element of tongue-in-cheek in his comments."
Confirmation of Mr McGuinness's challenge came amid unease within Fianna Fail over the party's failure to capitalise on the wave of scandals to engulf the Government.
Mr Martin has been forced to deny his leadership is in question despite his party's woeful standing in the opinion polls in Dublin.
He said he "did not agree" with former minister Mary Hanafin, who earlier described the party's support of 9pc in Dublin as "brutal".
"We have to be careful about interpreting polls. I am under no illusions of the challenges facing the party," he said.