Martin Ferris’s decision to stand down causes surprise at ardfheis

‘There’s always a time for change and this is the time for it,’ says Kerry TD

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said on Saturday (November 18) he will step down as party leader in 2018.

 

When Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams announced in his ardfheis speech that the party’s Kerry TD Martin Ferris would not be contesting the next election, it was nearly more of a surprise than his own departure.

His family and the party in Kerry knew he would not be running again but were unaware that the announcement would be made in such a public forum. “I didn’t tell anybody. That’s the way I am – I keep things to myself,” he said.

The former IRA member – who served 10 years in Portlaoise prison for attempting to import arms, ammunition and explosives in 1984 – has served as a TD since he was first won a Dáil seat in 2002. He was subsequently re-elected at each of the three following elections, and served as the party’s agriculture and fisheries spokesman.

Retirement

He will be 66 years of age next February and had been thinking of retiring for a long time. “There’s always a time for change and this is the time for it,” he said.

“Gerry and Martin [McGuinness] will be huge losses, two unbelievable people. I’m so honoured I could be part of the same struggle as them – and everybody else.”

His daughter, Cllr Toiréasa Ferris, is expected to run for selection at the party convention on December 1st, one of a number of candidates. “I wouldn’t wish it on too many people, this life, but good luck to her,” her father said. “I think she has the ability but there’s a lot of other people with ability as well.”

But he would not be going away, he said. “Whatever work the party want me to do, whether it is organising, helping out, doing constituency work or whatever, I’ll do it.”

Small changes

He is looking forward to small changes. “I’ll be able to walk Banna Strand and go out in my boat, do a little fishing. My two favourite people in the world are my two dogs. They’ll sit down on the couch and I’ll have them up in my lap so I’m looking forward to it. That’s my life.

Mr Ferris said it was the hypocrisy in Leinster House frustrated him most. “The hypocrisy in the place, particularly among political parties, trying to bring somebody down, rather than trying to do something good.”

He said “there are a lot of very good people there too. I’ve friends in every party and I got on with them and I socialised with them.

“But I hope that sometime, in the not too distant future, we’ll be in government so we can be tested and show what we’re capable of doing and I’m quite certain that we won’t be hypocrites.”

As Mr Ferris was being interviewed, a friend and Irish language activist passing by suggested he would now have time to learn Irish. “Chinese,” he quipped in response.

“I don’t speak Irish. I understand a bit of it,” he said. “My daughter’s fluent. All my family are fluent. Maybe I revolted against everything when I was I young, including Irish because it was compulsory. Anything compulsory I revolted against.”