Senior Fianna Fáil TDs angry at Martin over Hanafin handling

Eamon Ó Cúiv says he is “absolutely at a loss to understand why we are where we are”

Former Minister for Education Mary Hanafin says she will continue with her local election campaign, after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin insisted she was not an official party candidate. Video: Daniel O'Connor


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin came under pressure yesterday as some of his party’s most senior TDs strongly criticised the decision to approach former minister Mary Hanafin about standing in the local elections.

At a private meeting yesterday, jobs spokesman Dara Calleary, finance spokesman Michael McGrath, public expenditure spokesman Seán Fleming and foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Smith all raised serious concerns with how the events surrounding her nomination as a local election candidate in Blackrock, Dublin, had been handled. Separately, Eamon Ó Cúiv, the party’s agriculture spokesman, last night told The Irish Times he is “absolutely at a loss to understand why we are where we are”.

Mr Ó Cuív said Ms Hanafin had been given affiliation papers by party headquarters, and that in his experience, they could only be withdrawn in extreme circumstances, such as if “it was found out you were robbing a bank or something”.

“I always thought once you got the affiliation papers you were an endorsed candidate. But I suppose . . . you learn something new every day.”

While Mr Martin outlined the chain of events about how her nomination had been handled at the frontbench meeting, it is understood Messrs Calleary, McGrath, Smith and Fleming criticised the idea of getting a former minister to stand again for the party and how the issue was handled.

One senior TD said it was particularly frustrating that the issue arose at a time when Sinn Féin was under pressure and the Government was announcing water charges.

“We looked a gift horse in the mouth and turned the spotlight on ourselves,” the deputy said.

Mr Ó Cuív also said he would have no problem canvassing for Ms Hanafin, in spite of Mr Martin’s order that she is not an official Fianna Fáil candidate, even though he is unlikely to have time to do so.

He said he was “surprised” by Mr Martin initiating an investigation of Ms Hanafin’s defiance of him, a move which some saw as the first step in attempting to expel her from the party.

Asked if he still harboured ambitions to be leader, Mr Ó Cuív said: “There is no leadership contest so the issue doesn’t arise.”

Mr Ó Cuív said post-election would mostly be about the performance of party rather than the leader, and said he is always more interested in “policies rather than personalities”.

Another deputy warned the party would have to poll around 25 per cent in the local elections or else morale would drop.

This would represent a slight improvement on its 2009 local election performance.