Saturday 24 March 2018

Micheal Martin facing heave over Hanafin poll storm

Former Minister Mary Hanafin, who will run for Fianna Fail in the local elections, canvassing in Blackrock, Dublin yesterday
Former Minister Mary Hanafin, who will run for Fianna Fail in the local elections, canvassing in Blackrock, Dublin yesterday
Former Minister Mary Hanafin who will run for Fianna Fail in the local elections canvassing in Blackrock, Dublin.

Daniel McConnell, Niall O'Connor and Allison Bray

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin stood increasingly isolated last night, as two of his most senior lieutenants likened his leadership to the doomed regime of Brian Cowen.

Mr Martin is on high alert for the growing prospect of a leadership heave following his disastrous handling of the Mary Hanafin affair.

The Fianna Fail leader is being strongly criticised over the party's surprise decision to formally ask Ms Hanafin to run in the Blackrock ward in this month's local elections

He and other senior party figures then performed an extraordinary U-turn on Friday night and told the former Education Minister she no longer had a place on the ticket.


But Ms Hanafin then defied the party and lodged her affiliation papers, which had been signed by General Secretary Sean Dorgan. The party now faces the extraordinary scenario whereby its two candidates in one Dublin ward will effectively campaign against each other.

The former Dun Laoghaire TD yesterday accused the party of "making a hames" of the situation by failing to give adequate notice to her running mate Kate Feeney.

She further claimed that the manner in which she had been treated represented a form of bullying.

And Ms Hanafin was left shocked yesterday evening after Mr Martin launched a stinging attack and referred her to an internal party committee for investigation.

But Mr Martin is facing the prospect of a leadership heave after the local and European elections unless the party delivers three MEPs. Two senior Fianna Fail TD likened Mr Martin's reign to the "chaotic" last days of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen's government.

"I thought those days under Cowen were bad, but this stuff is even worse. This makes us all look so bloody stupid, it is amateurish and utterly avoidable," said one senior Fianna Fail TD.

"We have been bumbling along for months with no direction, no narrative. Make no doubt about it, Micheal's leadership is now in question."

Another senior deputy concurred that Mr Martin now reminds him of "those chaotic Brian Cowen days".

And another said Mr Martin has lost significant authority in his handling of this matter and stood isolated among his parliamentary party colleagues.

"Of course he is damaged by it. He has few people singing his praises today after this nonsense."

Earlier at the party's front bench meeting a "sheepish" Mr Martin told his party colleagues of his role in how Ms Hanafin came to be asked to run.

He also indicated that the party would refuse to campaign for Ms Hanafin, and would instead offer their sole support to Ms Feeney.

"The party will continue to campaign for the properly ratified candidate in Blackrock, Kate Feeney. Kate, the directly elected President of Ogra Fianna Fail is a new voice in politics and will make an excellent councillor if elected," Mr Martin said.

A number of the party's TDs were also deeply critical of Mr Dorgan's role in the debacle.

"Sean's fingerprints are all over this and he will have to account for this. If this doesn't work out, lads will be piling the pressure on him," said one TD.

While there is the possibility that Ms Hanafin could be expelled from the party, this was played down yesterday by Fianna Fail's jobs spokesperson Dara Calleary.


And the Irish Independent understands that Ms Hanafin has already put together a significant team of supporters.

Mr Calleary yesterday said the episode was "unfortunate" but insisted that Ms Hanafin defied the party's wishes.

In a tongue-in-cheek remark, Mr Calleary said he hoped "she doesn't fall off the ladder" while trying to hang up her election posters.

Ms Hanafin said she now wanted to focus on the issues affecting her constituents.

"For me now, the nomination process is over and behind me. I will be out canvassing immediately and focusing on the people in Blackrock and the issues they are affected by," she said.

Irish Independent

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