FF leader says Taoiseach trying to shift focus from performance

Micheál Martin speaks ahead of opening of party’s 74th ardfheis at RDS in Dublin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin during his opening speech at the 74th Fianna Fáil ardfheis at the RDS Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin during his opening speech at the 74th Fianna Fáil ardfheis at the RDS Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of trying to shift focus away from a very poor job creation performance by attacking the Opposition leader.

Mr Kenny had said this morning that Mr Martin and his party had left a “legacy of devastation” and at the launch of the Action Plan for Jobs the Taoiseach questioned whether the Fianna Fáil leader “could every be trusted with the economy again”.

But speaking to reporters, Mr Martin said: “This is the Government that promised 100,000 jobs before the last election. And today he unbelievably gave himself an A-grade on the employment issue.”

The Fianna Fáil leader said he would give him an ’E’ grade on jobs.

Mr Kenny said at the launch that the Government had stabilised the economic situation and created 1,000 private sector jobs each month for the past 15.

Speaking just before the opening of the 74th Fianna Fáil ardfheis Mr Martin claimed the Taoiseach had two different stories for domestic and international political consumption.

Asked if he was calling the Taoiseach “two-faced” Mr Martin said: “On this issue, yes. He tells a different story internationally. I’m not using that language. I’m not getting into personal descriptions at this stage.”

The Fianna Fáil leader said however that Mr Kenny, in terms of the message he was giving “has a domestic story and he has an international story”.

Last October when seeking debt restructuring on the promissory note, he was “very clear” with President Francois Hollande and said European policies were responsible for the situation Ireland found itself in, that bond holders could not be burned and the insistence that banks must not fail.

“And I don’t think anyone is seriously saying one political party in one island across Euroep and the developed world is responsible for the global crisis which he attempted to suggest this morning,” Mr Martin said.

He said it was “ironic that the leader of a Government of broken promises starts talking about trust in politics”.

He said the Taoiseach’s press conference was supposed to be about employment. “But the Taoiseach didn’t talk about the unemployment problem. He was talking about Fianna Fáil.”

The Taoiseach had, Mr Martin said, “put the emphasis on Fianna Fáil but not on employment issues because they didn’t succeed in the promises they made before the election” that they would create 100,000 jobs.

Asked about Fianna Fáil’s position on abortion, to be debated at the ardfheis, he said there were different strands of opinion.

His party accepted there had to be “legal clarity for the medical community in relation to protecting the life of the woman in pregnancy while protecting the life of the unborn as well.

Mr Martin said priority had to be given to protecting the life of the woman.

“Of course we did introduce legislation 10 years ago to do that. That excluded the suicide issue and that wasn’t passed by the people.”

The suicide issue was an issue that people had different perspectives on.

The party leadership would take on board what the membership had to say during the debate tomorrow, Mr Martin said.

Asked if he personally believed the threat of suicide should be included he said: “It’s not what I personally think….the issue in terms of how you legislate for that do you inadvertently create a situation where you have abortion on demand or open the floodgates. So that’s an argument that has been made. “

Mr Martin said the party would have to see the detail of the legislation before it could comment “definitively” in terms of either supporting or opposing it.

The situation had evolved in the last 10 years. Mr Martin said he would be constructive about it.

“I’m not going to play politics with it likepolitics was played 10 years ago. Maybe people who did that time might regret it now. I’m not going to play politics with it. It’s too sensitive, it’s too serious. There is a constitutional prohibition still on abortion.”

It was “fairly characteristic of the Government when they are on very weak ground that they go on the attack in an old-style political way”.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fail now had 20,000 signed up members.

“This will be the first ardfheis where everybody will be voting on a one member one vote principle,” he said.

Previously the party voted on the basis of its cumainn or local organisations.

The party will also debate how it will elect its leader in future, “again empowering the members of the organisation and creating a new electoral college, involving all members in different sectors of the party”.

There would be a consultation over the next number of months with a final decision at next year’s ardfheis.

In future if the party were to go into government with any other party, that was a decision that would have to be taken and ratified by the members of the party at future ardfheisanna and the elements of its programme for government would have to be signed off by a special conference of par ty members.

The conference will also debate jobs and the mortgage crisis.