Micheal Martin had all the hallmarks of a true prize political fighter, delivering a robust counterattack to the Government during the debate on the Mahon report in the Dail last week.
Up to now he has been fighting with one hand tied behind his back, hamstrung in the shadow of a tribunal yet to report. However, the long-awaited publication of the Mahon report, and his swift and decisive action in its wake, has well and truly propelled him into the leadership chair.
It's not easy being leader. It's never pleasant having to take unpopular decisions. It's not comfortable risking the wrath of some of the grassroots. But that's what leadership is all about, taking the hard and sometimes painful decisions for the sake of the party. Martin has yet again shown his mettle in the face of horrendous circumstances for his party.
The restraints are off. He's in the ring and he's not boxing wildly. He's landing lethal blows. Fine Gael had better watch out. The sitting ducks have finally found their wings and it will take a bit more than muck balls to shoot them down.
A debate that should have been a walkover for the Government ended up in a decisive win for Martin who had Eamon Gilmore on the run. The leader of the Labour Party found himself in the embarrassing position of having to defend the inaction of his coalition partners in relation to the Independent Review of Planning. How could he defend the indefensible? Why should he? It's no wonder his normal eloquent repartee deserted him.
Fianna Fail has been wounded by the Mahon report, but it has taken action. What has Taoiseach Enda Kenny done, one year on, about the Moriarty tribunal? Remember that one?
That was the tribunal in which the senior Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry was found "beyond doubt" to have imparted substantive information to Denis O'Brien which was "of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence" and that then Minister Lowry "secured the winning" of the 1995 mobile phone licence competition for Mr O'Brien's company Esat Digifone.
Even the Taoiseach's own Minister of State Lucinda Creighton has seen fit to voice her discomfort with her leader's position on the matter.
No wonder, then, that Eamon Gilmore looked sheepish. The arrogance Phil Hogan and Enda Kenny have shown towards their coalition partners is rivalled only by their smug glee at firing muck balls at Fianna Fail. You know what they say, people who live in glass houses and all that.
Martin asked a legitimate question. What has happened to the Independent Review of Planning set up by John Gormley? Why has it been sidelined by Hogan? Glib responses to legitimate questions are in stark conflict with pre-election assurance of openness and transparency.
Arrogance is a common failing of those in power for a prolonged period of time. Hogan suffers from early onset of the condition, the cure for which is a massive dose of humility. If Big Phil isn't compliant with the dose, his arrogance could be politically fatal.
Now that Martin has finally found his voice, we may see true debate in the Dail and a government held accountable by a strong vocal opposition. A breath of fresh air in a political system suffocated by the oppression of snide personal attacks, deflection of responsibility and epic ineptitude in performing even the most basic of administrative tasks, as has been evident by the household charge debacle. Fianna Fail may be small in numbers. It may have been down. But it is not out.
The task ahead of its leader is mammoth: rebuilding the organisation from its very roots.
Fianna Fail in recent years had moved away from promoting local party membership and hands-on involvement in favour of central membership with communication from head office via new media. The latter is a vital component in our world of internet social networking. However, face-to-face contact with party members, people who have always been the backbone of the organisation, is vital to an organisation whose very structure made it a national movement.
It's not virtual recruitment that's needed, it's the promotion of the young, vibrant, articulate and well-educated members throughout the country into holding public office. Fianna Fail's first target is the 2014 local elections. Incrementally and systematically, the building blocks need to be put in place to ensure a strong, sustainable foundation on which the future of the party can be secured.
Sinn Fein aspires to having a branch in every parish. That very structure already exists within Fianna Fail. It may be hibernating but it's still there. Martin must now inject energy, vitality and confidence into a membership that has been battered and bruised. Encourage them to stand up and fight back.
His style is very different from his predecessors. Not for him the indulgence of the soundbites nor the practice of cute politics. He is quiet, polite, subtle but devastatingly strong when he needs to deliver the crucial blow, as he so clearly displayed this week.
The general election delivered a shattering blow to Fianna Fail. The Mahon report has shaken it to its very core. But those who write it off have no understanding of the resilience of the people they call the Soldiers of Destiny.