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Calleary denies Fianna Fáil split over presidency

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Deputy Dara Calleary
Deputy Dara Calleary

Calleary denies Fianna Fáil split over presidency



Trevor Quinn


“Rejuvenation is a marathon not a sprint, and Micheál Martin will lead us in that marathon.” So said Dara Calleary when asked by The Mayo News about Fianna Fáil’s plans for the presidency.
Deputy Calleary said discussions on the presidential issue will take place during a sub-committee meeting on Monday. The parliamentary party will hear the sub-committee’s findings on Wednesday and it is anticipated that confirmation of Fianna Fáil’s decision on the presidential election will be made immediately after.
Deputy Calleary quickly dismissed any threat or backlash against Michael Martin’s leadership as a media concoction. However, he admitted that there was a ‘big difference of opinion’ in relation to the presidency, but denied that there was a ‘major split’.
He added, “It’s not a major split. It’s a big difference of opinion but that’s what next Monday’s meeting is about. There is different but significant implications, so it’s not an easy decision.”
Deputy Calleary added, “Obviously since last April we have been trying to encourage more than Fianna Fáil candidates. Councillors and Independent candidates have been informed that we would be willing to support them. We have been anxious to get as many people in the race as possible. Gay Byrne expressed an interest, and he was then approached by Micheál Martin.”
Martin’s approach and offer to back Gay Byrne ended abruptly and embarrassingly when the veteran broadcaster decided to withdraw from the race.
Martin was criticised by some Fianna Fail colleagues last week after the withdrawal from the Presidential race of MEP Brian Crowley. Asked about the handling of the presidential issue in the weeks before Crowley’s withdrawal, Deputy Calleary said, “It could have been handled better. He has given his explanation. We need to be realistic as to where we are as a party. No matter what Micheál does he will not win. If he backs an internal candidate he will be criticised and if he doesn’t he will also be criticised.”
Crowley had spoken of his interest in running as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the presidential election for some time, and after exiting the race he called the reluctance of his party to select an internal candidate a ‘mistake’.
Calleary said he was disappointed that Crowley did not wait until after yesterday’s sub-committee meeting before making his decision.  “I’m disappointed he didn’t wait until after the meeting. I think he would have made a fine candidate. I would have preferred if he could have waited until the sub-committee meeting. We will be discussing the whole issue of the presidency then before the recommendations are brought forward to a meeting of the parliamentary party on Wednesday.”