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FF leader's choices after the election will be what truly define his career

Philip Ryan


  

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Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin pictured as he arrived at RTE for the Prime Time Leaders Debate. Picture: Frank McGrath

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin pictured as he arrived at RTE for the Prime Time Leaders Debate. Picture: Frank McGrath

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin pictured as he arrived at RTE for the Prime Time Leaders Debate. Picture: Frank McGrath

With all that's been going on in recent days, it has almost been forgotten that Micheál Martin is still the lead contender to be the next Taoiseach.

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Fianna Fáil is ahead of Fine Gael in every opinion poll and is running twice as many candidates as Sinn Féin. Most predictions have Fianna Fáil on somewhere around 55 seats with Fine Gael on less than 45 while Sinn Féin might be just below 30.

Martin will have lots of options if the seats fall like this. His preferred government is a Fianna Fáil coalition with the Labour Party, Green Party, Social Democrats and a few Independents.

Second would be a Fianna Fáil-led minority government, including the Greens and/or others, supported by Fine Gael through a confidence and supply agreement.

He's not interested in the other options, he says. But to ensure you have a complete picture, he can also form a grand coalition with Fine Gael or a not-so-grand coalition with Sinn Féin. Again, based on seat predictions.

All this may change after quite a lively election debate on RTÉ on Tuesday night. But for the moment it looks like Micheál Martin is in the driving seat and will have some big decisions to make.

The election has been all about change, we are told, and Martin insists Fianna Fáil back in power after nine years is change.

On the 'Floating Voter' podcast, he decided to pick a fight with the Central Bank over what he says is its agenda to change Ireland into a rental society.

It's not so long ago Fianna Fáil was being criticised for introducing light-touch regulation in the financial sector. And now, the party leader is seeking to influence the policy of the regulator again.

He's hardly a new face in politics for those seeking change. He was first elected to the Dáil in 1989 and has served in various ministerial portfolios over a 14-year period. But on the other side of that argument, why would you elect someone as Taoiseach who has no ministerial experience?

The most experienced candidates on his election ticket do not represent a lot of change. There is a good spattering of Celtic Tiger ministers on his team. However, he would argue his General Election ticket is one of the youngest on offer.

He is also seeking to wedge a class divide between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Martin claims he is the champion of the working class while Fine Gael represents the wealthy elite. The businessmen who arrived by helicopter to the Galway Races and dined in the Fianna Fáil tent will be disappointed to hear it no longer represents their interests.

There are many other paradoxes in what Fianna Fáil is offering. But Martin is still in the driving seat two days out from polling. He has carried the campaign for Fianna Fáil and shown little sign of tiring. The ultimate prize may be a few days away but the choices he makes after the election will truly define his career.

Irish Independent