Martin to vote against Taoiseach tomorrow


CONFIDENCE MOTION:MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said last night he would vote against the Taoiseach in the confidence motion at tomorrow’s meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.

He said he had offered his resignation to Brian Cowen.

“He has indicated he believes that such a course of action is not necessary,’’ he added.

Mr Martin said he had spoken to the Taoiseach yesterday.

“I did say to him that given the position I am now adopting, that the best course of action for me was to resign,’’ he added.

“He was of the view that this matter was one where we should both accept there was a difference of opinion, and that we should resolve it within the confines of the party and we should accept the outcome of the vote of confidence on Tuesday.’’

Asked what he would do if Mr Cowen won the confidence motion on Tuesday, Mr Martin said he would consider his position again at that time.

“My position is clear in that I have offered my resignation to the Taoiseach,’’ he added.

Speaking at a press conference in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, Mr Martin said he had talked “candidly and in private’’ with Mr Cowen on a number of occasions over the past week.

He added: “I believe that Fianna Fáil must recognise the reality of the current climate of public opinion, and my concern is that we be able to put forward a positive agenda, an election campaign with energy and to engage the public.

“I have reluctantly concluded that in these circumstances Fianna Fáil should change its leader before the election, and I have informed the Taoiseach of this view.

“Having talked to most members of the parliamentary party, and, indeed, many members of the party across the country, I believe this is a widely held view.’’

Mr Martin said he had gone privately to the Taoiseach last Monday to convey the views of TDs and others within Fianna Fáil.

He had a “good, candid conservation’’ with Mr Cowen and said to him that many felt a change of leader would be the best option in terms of enabling the party to put forward a vibrant programme.

“We had a discussion about that, and I left it at that,’’ Mr Martin added.

“Other events took place parallel to that, and I was not involved in those. They came to a particular climax on Thursday.’’

Mr Martin said there was no question of who should head the Government until the election.

“The Government has a short agenda to complete before the election, which involves delivering a number of specific reform commitments and providing for the final implementation of this year’s Budget,’’ he added.

Mr Martin said last week a number of TDs and some Ministers called to him to articulate their concern about the situation regarding the party.

These were people, he said, who were not normally or ordinarily involved in articulating concerns about the Taoiseach or the state of the party in the past.

Concern, he said, was expressed about the low morale within the party throughout the country, the absence of any appearance of an election campaign, or an electoral machine in readiness, and, particularly, an absence of direction and the number of retirements post-Christmas.

“And to be frank, the phrase put to me was that the very survival of the party was at stake,’’ he added.

“This was no longer a matter of people’s individual seats. Indeed some TDs said to me, ‘Micheál, I think my seat is gone, but our forefathers and many people around the country built this party, and it has made a distinguished contribution to the country.’’

Mr Martin said it was important for the country that there was a vibrant Fianna Fáil party in the next Dáil.

He defended his ministerial record, pointing to the smoking ban as one of his achievements.