Martin does not anticipate FF comeback for Power

Mike Dwane


Mike Dwane

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin no longer anticipates a return to politics for former minister Peter Power.

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin no longer anticipates a return to politics for former minister Peter Power.

Deputy Martin last year left the door open for a Power comeback, describing him as a "big loss" to the party and urging him to consider a run in the local elections in 2014.

Mr Power has since been appointed executive director of Unicef Ireland and this, Deputy Martin believes, is where he is likely to stay.

"Peter is at Unicef Ireland now and is very enthused by that. Having been a very experienced and able minister in foreign affairs, particularly with responsibility for Irish Aid, I think he was well suited to that position and I wish him very well in that. And I think that has all his attention. I don’t think he is interested in politics at this stage. In fairness to him, his wife and family, he is entitled to pursue normal life outside of politics," Deputy Martin said.

Speaking at the Strand Hotel, the Fianna Fail leader said the party had to remain "humble" as it set about recovering ground lost in the electoral wipeout of two years ago. He conceded the party looked in better shape in the rural Limerick constituency compared to Limerick City.

"We have very good front bench people in Willie O’Dea and Niall Collins. Both are performing very well. They are intelligent, experienced and they do their homework on the issues. That is a strength for us. We have a good county council base but we are weaker in the city, where we have Kieran (O’Hanlon) - alone he stands, as he said to me earlier. But we have Christy McInerney and Joe Crowley in two wards in the city as area representatives. We have been doing this across the country where have 50 area representatives appointed."

Both Mr McInerney and Mr Crowley failed to get elected in the local elections in 2009 but Deputy Martin agreed that as party-sanctioned area representatives, they were in pole position for another council run come 2014.

"Obviously they will have to go through convention but the idea is that they are already working on the ground; knocking on doors; listening to people; hearing the issues and feeding them back to us."

The party leader also said there were signs Fianna Fail was reconnecting with young people.

"I’ve just met with the Ogra Fianna Fail University of Limerick branch and it’s very interesting in relation to our cumainn in Limerick and across the country that we are the largest political party on every university and institute of technology campus bar Trinity, which is a very good indicator of our potential in the future," he declared.

He admitted that Fianna Fail had more to do "to regain the trust of the people". It was put to him that Askeaton’s Cllr Kevin Sheahan had said the party would never win back that trust if it did not demand swingeing cuts in the pensions of former ministers.

But Deputy Martin said the budget proposals outlined by the party last week had included provisions to cut - through tax measures - all public sector pensions above €75,000.

"We are targeting anybody over €75,000 at a certain level, higher over €100,000 and higher again over €150,000. That’s the way to go at this (through taxation) because if you go at just a targeted group who have contractual property rights, you are in trouble legally. So we believe this is a more generic way, and a way that meets the potential legal challenges...we are not just going around giving out, attacking this and that. We are standing back and saying ‘okay this is a huge concern and rightly so given the state of the country’ and what practical measures can we introduce."