Candidate says she wants to lead a 'renewed' Fianna Fáil party

 

MARY HANAFIN:FIANNA FÁIL leadership contender Mary Hanafin says it is important for each candidate to “get the opportunity to state our pitch”.

Formally announcing her intention to stand in the party leadership contest, the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport said yesterday she was “specifically asking that people will not come out and declare” their support “because I don’t think that’s necessary”.

She acknowledged that former minister Micheál Martin had substantial public backing, but denied it was a risky strategy not to seek such endorsement from her party colleagues.

People should not be “writing me off” before the leadership election even started, Ms Hanafin (51) added.

She looked forward to “setting out my platform. This is a country that is divided evenly 50-50 male female. We should never have a situation where the largest political party in the country is presenting a team of four men to contest the leadership.

“I’m not saying to people ‘please come out and tell me who youre voting for’, but I think it’s important to get the opportunity to state our pitch.”

She will be proposed for the leadership by Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey and seconded by Tipperary North TD Máire Hoctor. “I think that’s the perfect balance of the Cabinet and the backbench, the urban and the rural, the male and the female,” Ms Hanafin added.

She would love to lead a party that was renewed where “young people were encouraged, where women were appreciated fully, where we could just involve people all over the country in a new renewal of what is no longer a movement, but what should be a movement”.

She said: “Politics is my life. Fianna Fáil is my life. I devote all of my time and energy to it. I don’t have anything else. I’m absolutely committed to my job.”

A TD for Dún Laoghaire since 1997 and formerly minister for education and government chief whip, Ms Hanafin spoke to reporters at the RDS Creative Ireland Expo before her first official function as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

She denied she was damaged by her approach last week in opposing Brian Cowen as party leader but accepting him as Taoiseach. She said she voted in accordance with her view “that he should resign for the good of the party, to give us a new start”.

There was now “a difference between being leader of Fianna Fáil and being Taoiseach. So I think that position has been vindicated.”

There had been no contest the last time and there was now an opportunity to talk about the party’s future. She wanted to create an inclusive party and base it on “the original principles of Fianna Fáil, which I believe just need to be adapted to a new Ireland”.

Asked if Fianna Fáil was ready for a female leader, she said: “I’m ready to lead them. The question is are they ready for me to lead them. I just think if you’re looking for something completely new and fresh in Fianna Fáil, well this is the opportunity.”

She spoke to a number of colleagues about whether she should “throw my hat in the ring”.

A number, “particularly along the east coast Dublin area, who felt that these are the areas most at risk”, believed there was a need for a “Dublin-based leader.

There was “no deal” done for a a leader and deputy leader pact. “No leader selects their deputy leader until theyve been elected leader.””.

MARY HANAFIN PROFILE

THE TD for Dún Laoghaire has not had a close relationship with Brian Cowen and is seen as having been demoted by him when he moved her from the Department of Education to, first, social protection and then to tourism and arts.

However, she is perceived as an energetic Minister who has maintained a high profile in each portfolio she has held.

Ms Hanafin (51) is seen as competent and tough with good communications skills and is seen as one of the more accessible members of the Cabinet.

She has not hidden her disenchantment with Mr Cowen’s leadership in recent months and in recent media appearances, she has failed to confirm her confidence in his leadership.