Martin's choices a cause of 'resentment'


VOCATIONAL PANELS:FIANNA FÁIL leader Micheál Martin's decision to recommend support for 10 candidates in the Seanad election had caused some resentment among the party's councillors, re-elected senator Denis O'Donovan said yesterday.

Three of the successful Fianna Fáil candidates on the agricultural panel, Mr O'Donovan, Jim Walsh and Paschal Mooney, did not feature on Mr Martin's list.

Brian Ó Domhnaill, who contested Donegal South West in the general election and was one of Mr Martin's choices, was re-elected, but two others on his list, Seán Connick from Wexford, a minister of state in the last government, and outgoing senator James Carroll from Louth, failed to make it.

"Councillors are a rare breed of people with their own electoral mandate," said Mr O'Donovan.

"I think the result, where three of the 'B team' got elected, indicated to some degree councillors' resentment at the mandate given to them." He said while Mr Martin's decision had not damaged his leadership, he had listened to advice which was "probably knee-jerk and illogical".

Mr O'Donovan, whose career in national politics began when he was a taoiseach's nominee to the Seanad in 1989, said he probably felt more hurt than others at his exclusion because he had narrowly failed to win a Dáil seat in Cork South West in the election.

He said he felt he had the equivalent of a "ball and chain" attached to him during the Seanad campaign because he was not on Mr Martin's list.

While those supported by the party leader were fine candidates, the list had led to "an apartheid system within Fianna Fáil" during the campaign, he added.

Mr O'Donovan said he had great respect for Mr Martin and would give him his full support in rebuilding the party.

Mr Walsh and Mr Connick are members of the same cumann in New Ross, which added local tensions to the campaign.

Mr Walsh, a Senator since 1997, said while he could understand Mr Martin's electoral concerns, he felt that placing one candidate endorsed by the party leadership in each panel would have led to a more cohesive campaign.

He said he did not think the strategy had damaged Mr Martin's leadership.

"He has shown energy and commitment since he was elected and I think that what we need to do now is rebuild morale within the party and people's confidence in us," Mr Walsh added.

Although Fianna Fáil lost a seat to Labour, which took two seats, its performance in securing four seats in the 11-seat agricultural panel was impressive. Fine Gael retained its four seats and Sinn Féin held its seat.

The two new Labour Senators on the panel are James Heffernan, who contested the Limerick constituency in the general election, and Susan O'Keeffe, who ran in Sligo-North Leitrim.

Sinn Féin's Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, a candidate in Galway West in the general election, replaced Pearse Doherty, who was elected to the Dáil for Donegal South West in the general election. Fine Gael's Paddy Burke and Paul Bradford retained their seats, while the party's two other seats were won by chairman of the Fine Gael Sligo-North Leitrim constituency executive Michael Comiskey and Kilkenny councillor Pat O'Neill.

Mr Burke, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, is expected to be cathaoirleach of the new Seanad. A close associate of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, he was first elected to the Seanad in 1993 and has previously served as leas-chathaoirleach.

In the count for the 11-seat Labour panel last night, outgoing Fine Gael Senators Maurice Cummins and Fidelma Healy-Eames were returned.

Labour's Marie Moloney, who contested Kerry South in the general election, and Sinn Féin's David Cullinane, who contested Waterford, also won seats.

Fianna Fáil's long-serving senator Donie Cassidy was under pressure, as was party colleague John Hanafin.