Wednesday 20 November 2019

John Drennan: Martin's plea for fresh blood inside Senate falls on deaf ears

Fianna Fail's ageing band of senators are giving the party's new leader a headache, writes John Drennan

John Drennan

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has backed away from the first significant challenge to his leadership -- a complete clear-out of the current list of ageing party senators.

With the exception of some younger figures like Marc McSharry most are career senators who are not believed to have any particular ambitions for Dail seats.

Martin told his senators that he was looking for "potential legislators and effective articulators''. However, the response to the leader's plea was epitomised by one scathing comment of: "I think he's looking for political virgins but he won't find too many in this party."

And after a series of sometimes stormy meetings where Martin was warned that he was threatening the independence of the Senate and potentially "subverting the constitution", a compromise was reached where the Fianna Fail leader will decide the party nominations to the Seanad.

Senator Mary White also told the Sunday Independent that, while she was 66, "Hillary Clinton was 64 and she seems to be capable of being a Secretary of State so I feel perfectly capable of being a Senator''. She emphasised: "I've never lost an election in my life." The collapse of Fianna Fail means that the party can only expect to win a dozen seats, which will lead to intense competition for nominations, with Mary Hanafin's former adviser Averil Power taking on the former minister for a seat.

Fianna Fail will struggle to elect high-profile, former Dublin TDs such as Darragh O'Brien, Conor Lenihan, Chris Andrews John Curran and defeated candidates such as Mary Fitzpatrick and Maria Corrigan. Other defeated candidates who will be hoping to rebuild their careers include Sean Connick, Thomas Byrne, and Margaret Conlon, however, the intensity of the competition means few of these will succeed.

The upcoming Seanad battles may also witness a series of stormy electoral battles between the putative Coalition partners of Fine Gael and Labour.

Labour is expected to target the election, or appointment, of high-profile candidates such as John Whelan (Laois/Offaly), Jimmy Harte (Donegal), Susan O'Keeffe (Sligo/Leitrim), Jerry Cowley (Mayo), Paula Desmond (Cork), James Heffernan (Limerick), and Pat Cody (Wexford). A number of Dublin-based candidates who narrowly lost out such as Aine Clancy, Henry Upton, and Joan Burton's running mate Pat Nulty will also be hoping for preferment.

Within FG, and in spite of the achievement of the party in winning a record number of seats, a new wave of 'bright young things' will hope to use the Seanad as a springboard to take out their own colleagues or to increase the party's seat total at any future election.

These include defeated sitting TDs such as Deirdre Clune, Michael D'Arcy and Tom Sheahan.

Sunday Independent

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