Fianna Fáil leadership contest


Statements from the four contenders

‘We need  to take difficult decisions’

BRIAN LENIHAN:“In my view, one of the reasons why mistakes were made was because of our reluctance to face up to difficulties and our anxiety to please various interests. The Fianna Fáil which I would lead would be of a sterner and more decisive character

IN MODERN politics, the ability to communicate is crucial. But leadership is more than style and selling a message. It is about substance. The most effective means of communication and of leadership is to be frank with citizens about what needs to be done. In difficult times we need to take difficult decisions. Mistakes have been made by my party in the management of our country’s affairs. We must acknowledge those mistakes and all of us must take responsibility for them.

In my view, one of the reasons why mistakes were made was because of our reluctance to face up to difficulties and our anxiety to please various interests.

The Fianna Fáil which I would lead would be of a sterner and more decisive character.

I have done my level best over the last 2½ years to put matters back on track. We have managed to stabilise our finances; we have taken the measures to stabilise our banking system and to put it on a sustainable footing so that it can serve the needs of our economy. We have devised a credible four-year plan that plots a course back to sustainable growth.

This election will be enormously challenging for Fianna Fáil. We face a fight in many ways for our very survival.

But I want to put Fine Gael and Labour on notice that this election campaign will be no walkover.

Fianna Fáil will take the fight to them in every corner of the country and in the national debate. Their policies, and particularly their economic policies, will be placed under a bright spotlight. A serious campaign in which the various alternatives being offered are subjected to forensic examination is in the national interest, and that is what I as leader of Fianna Fáil would ensure this country gets.

In shaping Fianna Fáil’s campaign for the election, I want to release the energies of the many young and talented backbenchers already in the ranks of our parliamentary party and indeed of the many new candidates entering the fray for Fianna Fáil.

In my view, the task of rejuvenating and rebuilding our party must be led by the new generation and there is an obligation on those of us with government and party experience at a senior level to assist the transition necessary to achieve that generational shift.

It is not in our national interest that a Fine Gael-Labour government with a bloated majority be marked by a weak, inexperienced and disjointed opposition dominated by politicians who are prisoners of rhetoric and bereft of any realistic solutions.

Politics for me has always been about the common good.

No single interest, no matter how deserving, must be allowed to overwhelm the achievement of that objective. In my view Fianna Fáil should position itself as a modern, reforming, decisive party of substance in the Lemass mode.

We need to be the party of national economic, political and social renewal; outward looking and inclusive in our approach. We need to emphasise our strong tradition of respect for our distinctive culture, while stressing our commitment that Ireland should play a confident role in the wider European context.

We should emphasise our desire to maximise the North-South dimension to our politics and our objective of achieving national unity. In all our policies and presentations, we should show how determined we are to continue to protect the most vulnerable and to build on the educational advancements we have made in recent decades.

We should be the strongest advocates for a sustainable economic recovery and further economic development built on equal opportunity.

As leader of Fianna Fáil I would work with like-minded parties on a radical transformation of our political system. Such reform could be implemented in a realistic way and in a manner which attracts the best and the brightest to participate at the highest level in public life.

This transformation should include a smaller reformed Dáil, and a smaller Seanad elected by list system on the same day as Dáil elections, together with a requirement that a minimum number of ministers be appointed from the ranks of that reformed Seanad.

The challenges facing the next leader of Fianna Fáil are both immediate and more medium term.

I feel I have the appropriate experience, vision and capacity to do that job well. I am confident I have the energy and stamina the task demands.

Fianna Fáil has been pivotal in the short history of this State. A rejuvenated, strong Fianna Fáil is crucial to the future of our democracy.

  • Brian Lenihan is Minister for Finance.

FF has a unique and positive role to play

MICHEÁL MARTIN:THE BIGGEST motivation for me in seeking the leadership of Fianna Fáil is that I believe the tradition it represents has a unique and positive role to play in our country’s future. In a rush to dismiss and stereotype Fianna Fáil, its opponents have always missed the real spirit which has been central to its support.

The party was founded by a revolutionary generation which understood the need for a radical change in both its programme and its approach to politics. A republican and nationalist party, it has an unmatched commitment to an outward-looking approach to engagement with international institutions.

At its most creative and effective, Fianna Fáil has always been committed to a middle way which believes that a commitment to both economic growth and social progress can and must go hand-in-hand. It is this tradition which, for example, ensured that every significant expansion in education participation has come as a result of Fianna Fáil initiatives.

Fianna Fáil has always been bigger than its leaders. The organisation is made up of ordinary people who work in their communities and take nothing from politics except a sense of making a contribution.

The opportunities which I and my generation have benefited from came from the far-sighted decisions of Fianna Fáil ministers through the years. We chose to support Fianna Fáil because of a record and programme unmatched by any other party.

In the coming weeks, we will have one of the most important general elections in our history. Even in the middle of a crisis of this scale, there are a lot of choices to be made and there are major differences between the parties in how they should be tackled.

For this election, the public deserve a campaign which is as serious and comprehensive as the issues to be decided.

The Fine Gael and Labour parties are running campaigns which assume they have an automatic right to power. They are glossing over deeply fundamental differences and focusing on the only issue which seems to energise them – which jobs they will have after the election.

They don’t want an election. They want a coronation and I am determined they will not get away with this. I am also clear about the many achievements I secured as a minister in various portfolios.

For example, in education I implemented the first national programme to support children with special educational needs in all schools and helped tens of thousands of adults to overcome literacy problems. Programmes of investment and reform were also put in place and I initiated a major investment in third level.

In health, the record shows a system which treated more people, faster and with better outcomes because of the changes I introduced. The first national workplace smoking ban in the world is already improving the health of thousands. I made significant improvements to the treatment of heart disease with sustained investment.

In enterprise, I implemented a series of policies that will lead economic recovery, working particularly well with both the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

In foreign affairs, I refocused our diplomatic resources on the support of economic opportunities and ensured that we have robustly supported the peace settlement. The Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh was a fresh and new way of harnessing the talent of the worldwide Irish community for the benefit of the country.

I want Fianna Fáil to lay out a clear and credible plan to address the core issues which concern the people. The four-year budget plan is obviously central to this, but there is more we can do. Ireland can and will, with the right policies, recover. We have to make sure that this recovery is seen in sustained job creation as well as more practical help for people. We must create further opportunities for young people coming out of our schools and colleges.

I also want us to show our commitment to the type of radical reform programme which was synonymous with Fianna Fáil through most of its history. Twenty-first century Ireland has to modernise its system of government and to find new ways of engaging with its citizens. What I want to lead is a party which is capable of changing the way it engages with the Irish people.

Above all, Fianna Fáil must ensure that it represents a vehicle for opportunity for our people to progress and develop.

A party which makes sure that the people have a choice in the election.

A party which puts forward a positive agenda for Ireland’s future. A party which can campaign with energy and conviction.

A party which can admit error, but is not afraid to defend its many positive contributions to this country. I believe that’s something worth fighting for.

  • Micheál Martin is former minister for foreign affairs

A good knowledge of urban and rural Ireland

ÉAMON Ó CUÍV:FIANNA FÁIL needs to articulate a new vision of the future which builds a strong economy, ensures fair taxes, good social services, develops the highest quality health and educational services, develops cultural and community life, continues to work for reconciliation. I believe that I am the best candidate to lead Fianna Fáil in this work.

While recognising the absolute imperative of restoring our national finances, we must also devise creative ways of helping households, mortgage holders and small businesses that are in financial trouble. We must also pay particular attention to job creation and the needs of the unemployed and affirm our commitment to fight the potential scourge of long-term emigration.

Fianna Fáil’s strength was always its connection with the people of Ireland through its very large membership and strong roots in every local community. In this way it was able to keep its finger on the pulse of national life.

In recent years, due to changing demographics and wider urbanisation, we in Fianna Fáil have not managed to retain, as we would have liked, that close connection. We need to convince our supporters that we serve the interests of the ordinary people of Ireland.

I believe I offer a very good knowledge and understanding of urban and rural Ireland. All my formative years were spent in Dublin, where I attended school at Oatlands College, Mount Merrion, and studied for a science degree at UCD. My adult years have been spent in rural Ireland.

One of our primary tasks has to be to rebuild our organisation in every community in the country, both urban and rural, and across all economic backgrounds. This will be challenging work for a new leader and will take time, energy and commitment. I believe in my years as an elected representative that I have shown a willingness to visit every locality, to meet various community groups and to listen to their views and concerns.

Before entering politics I spent many years working in enterprise development, including setting up and managing a manufacturing industry. I have extensive organisational experience and skills. I worked for 18 years as the first manager of a community co-operative based in the Joyce Country/Tourmakeady area, which had 400 members. In the development of enterprise in the area, it was vital to maintain community and shareholder support for the co-operative and to build unity and a sense of purpose and belief for the future in a very wide rural area. This taught me many important lessons that I have used to good effect in my political career, both as a minister and as a member of the Fianna Fáil organisation. I served in Fianna Fáil as a cumann chairman and comhairle ceantair secretary as well as being, at present, a member of the National Executive. I was director of elections in the Donegal South West byelection.

In my 10 months in the Department of Social Protection, I have overseen a radical reorganisation of the department including the transfer of the Community Welfare Office service, Fás employment services and redundancy payments to its remit. I piloted three pieces of legislation through the Oireachtas. This legislation included radical reform of disability law and innovative new provisions for Irish pension schemes.

I believe that good service depends on good policies and good administration. As a Minister, I believe that I showed strong skills in ensuring that the departments for which I had responsibility had innovative policies and efficient administrative services.

On election as senator in 1989, I made a decision that I would build up relations and contact with people in the North. I have done this steadily over the years. I was very involved with the issue of republican prisoners in the 1994-1997 period and have many contacts in the nationalist community throughout the North. I have also built up very strong links within the wider unionist community, particularly through my responsibility for the Ulster Scots Agency and through other contacts.

Politics is about people. Politicians must have the ability to motivate, lead and unify people. I have wide experience of this type of work through my involvement in my local area as co-operative manager and with my work in the peace process. In more recent times, my setting up of Comhairle na Tuaithe was an important catalyst in resolving the disputes between farmers, landholders and hillwalkers in a way that benefited all sides.

Creidim go bhfuil fíorthábhacht lenár bhféiniúlacht féin agus, ar ndóigh, tá forbairt ár gcultúr, ceoil agus teanga lárnach d’Fhianna Fáil ó bunaíodh é.

  • Éamon Ó Cuív is Minister for Social Protection, Defence and Environment

‘We can get Ireland back on track’

MARY HANAFIN:I BELIEVE in our country. I believe in Fianna Fáil. I want to help restore pride in both. That is why I am putting myself forward as the next leader of our party.

Fianna Fáil has been at the heart of Irish life for generations. The broad, inclusive and progressive policies that we have articulated are a natural reflection of the experience, concerns and vision of our members all over the country.

Our members represent all age groups, all interests and all backgrounds. Some have been members all their lives, while others have chosen to join us while students in college. Many of them are involved in other community organisations, such as sports clubs, trade unions, youth centres or parish councils. All of them share a belief in the values of Fianna Fáil as a broadly based party.

The vast majority of Fianna Fáil members will never hold a paid position in politics. They get involved in the party because they want to help make their local area and their country a better place in which to live.

The party’s broad base has long been its strength. It helps to keep Fianna Fáil’s elected representatives and our policies in tune with the lives of families all over the country in good times and in bad. My aim is to involve more young people and women in a renewed party that will help to shape the new Ireland.

While our policies have evolved over the years as the country has developed and modernised, I believe that our core values are as relevant today as they have always been. These values underlined de Valera’s support for families, Lemass’s commitment to industrial innovation and Lynch’s determination to see Ireland play a strong role on the world stage.

As party leader I would aim to recreate Fianna Fáil as a great national movement based on the principals that have been established by our founders but adapted to the realities of the 21st century.

Tackling unemployment and getting the public finances back on track must of course be a key priority in the immediate term. But we must never lose sight of the fact that we live in a community and a society. Ireland is not just an economy.

As a young teacher, as a TD and as a Minister, my first priority has always been to ensure that every young person gets the opportunities and the supports they need to reach their full potential. These principles guide my work.

During my time as minister for children, children were given a voice for the first time on issues that affected them, including the development of playgrounds, the establishment of Dáil na nÓg and the framing of the National Children’s Strategy.

As minister for education and science, staffing and funding were allocated to ensure the integration of children with special needs. I am delighted to see the impact of curriculum changes in Irish, maths and technology; particularly the targeting of extra supports for children in disadvantaged areas.

As Minister for Social and Family Affairs I aimed to ensure fairness in the social welfare system.

With a heavy heart I had to implement cuts, but tried to balance this with a major crackdown on fraud.

In the last year, the value and importance given to tourism, culture and sport has helped to improve the reputation of Ireland abroad at a time when we really need it.

Our work in Government and my part in that has always been undertaken with the best interests of the country at heart, but I regret the way that some of our decisions have impacted so severely on workers and families.

I want to see a future for Ireland where our pride has been restored, where we can be assured that our young people can get employment to match their education; where our families are not burdened with pressures of uncertainty and fear and all citizens again have faith in the Government and the institutions of this State to care for them and value them.

I have great faith in this country – in our young people, our parents, our workers and our entrepreneurs. I appreciate the pressure that people are under, the challenges that many are facing and the worries that they have about the future.

But I know that together we can get Ireland back on track to a brighter, stronger and fairer future. I hope to work with members of Fianna Fáil to rebuild our party and our country. For as Seán Lemass once said: “There is almost nothing on earth that the people of this country cannot do better, or as well, as other people, once they apply their minds to it.”

  • Mary Hanafin is Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, and also Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.
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