Martin apologises for FF role in economic downturn


FIANNA FÁIL ARDFHEIS:FIANNA FÁIL leader Micheál Martin has apologised to the Irish people for his party’s role in the events that led to the economic crash.

In his keynote speech to the party’s 73rd ardfheis in Dublin at the weekend Mr Martin apologised for the mistakes that had done such damage to the country’s economy.

Speaking to almost 4,000 delegates in the RDS, he said: “It’s not enough to point to the worst world recession in 80 years and the euro zone crisis. Nor to point to the fact that other parties were demanding policies which would have made things worse – that’s for them to answer for.

“We were in government and we should have acted differently. We made mistakes. We got things wrong. And we are sorry for that. No equivocation. No half-apology. Just the plain, unvarnished truth.

Mr Martin said the people did what they were entitled to do in the general election last year. “People were angry and they showed it, delivering a historic defeat for us. We fully acknowledge the scale of the defeat.

“That is why we must now work for a deep and real renewal of both our party and of politics as a whole,” he said. Mr Martin said other parties had demanded policies that would have made things worse but there was no point focusing on that.

The apology, which was greeted by a standing ovation, formed the high point of Mr Martin’s first address as leader to an ardfheis, the party’s first since 2009.

There were also standing ovations when former taoiseach Brian Cowen was welcomed to the ard-fheis and when Mr Martin paid tribute to the late Brian Lenihan.

Mr Martin emphasised renewal and a new approach to politics during the course of the speech and also referred to the party’s own modernisation reforms passed by ardfheis delegates on Saturday.

“The problems facing people are too serious for tired, old political games,” he said adding that the party was determined to play a constructive role in Irish public life.

“This Government of broken promises must be held to account for its bad decisions. But we will tackle them responsibly,” the former minister said. “When something is right for Ireland, we will support it, when it is wrong we will oppose it.”

Turning to the economy, he conceded the room for action was limited. “I’m not going to pretend that there are easy options. We have always supported a strategy of bringing the deficit down to a sustainable level.”

Mr Martin committed Fianna Fáil to supporting the European Stability treaty in the referendum.

He pointed to the party’s pro-European stance since Seán Lemass and the fact that a Fianna Fáil government submitted Ireland’s application to join what is now the EU exactly 50 years ago.

“This has always been a pro-EU party and we are not going to change that now. We have taken the lead in setting out a detailed series of reform measures which Europe needs to get through the crisis,” said Mr Martin. “Because it is the right thing to do for Ireland, we will be true to our tradition and we will support this new treaty.”

Delegates voted for a motion to reform the party organisation by giving all members a vote in future candidate selection. They also backed a motion calling for the recognition of gay marriage but rejected one for gender quotas in party selection conventions for the next local elections.

Motions calling for legislation to ban corporate donations to political parties and for the introduction of a household charge based on home value were also passed.

However, delegates voted against the septic tank charge and against the 30 per cent gender requirement proposed by the Government. A motion calling for the voting age to be reduced to 16 was rejected.

Delegates voted in favour of a motion calling for cuts in the salaries of top RTÉ presenters and also backed more rigorous rules for broadcasters to prevent a repeat of the Fr Kevin Reynolds libel.

Meanwhile former minister Gerry Collins was defeated in the contest to be joint honorary secretary by former TD Margaret Conlon from Monaghan who lost her seat in last year’s election. The other honorary secretary is Dara Calleary.