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Fianna Fáil leader vows to win back Mayo’s party faithful

Martin comes out fighting

Fianna Fáil leader vows to win back Mayo’s party faithful

Áine Ryan

EMBATTLED Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin may have inherited a poisoned chalice but last night (Monday) he was in traditional ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ fighting form when he encroached on the home territory of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and met the party faithful in The Welcome Inn Hotel in Castlebar.
While the Cork native declined to commit about taking on Taoiseach Kenny in a cycling duel, he did admit his regular healthy diet of pinto beans, avocado, beetroot, chicken and beetroot meant he was able for any physical or political challenge.
Later last night Deputy Martin met local Fianna Fáil councillors and the party faithful as part of a series of meetings he has held all over the country since last May. Ironically, similar meetings – aimed to reconnect and reignite the grassroots – were held by Enda Kenny after Fine Gael’s disastrous General Election of 2002.
Responding to a Mayo News question about what he would say to small farmer in the remotest areas of Mayo to attract them back to the fold, he said: “We are going to meet and engage with them and listen to what they have to say. We will be the advocates for small farmers. I have already asked the front bench to review our whole policy on rural Ireland and our Harvest 20/20 is a great blueprint for this.”

Committed to rural Ireland
He said he was committed ‘to make life viable for the people of rural Ireland’. Mr Martin (pictured) attacked the government’s proposal to introduce charges for septic tanks in rural Ireland. While he said he accepted EU regulations regarding their monitoring, he argued that it was Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan’s decision to propose this ‘stealth tax’.
Moreover, he defended his decision not to field a candidate for the upcoming presidential election.
“It was not a difficult decision. It was taken for strategic reasons. Our research showed that people are looking for a candidate that is above party politics. We had to make a call on our existing resources and since we are already €3 million in debt we did not want to add another €750,000 to that,” he said.
He stressed the focus must be on the next local elections, which would be a ‘critical milestone’ in the party’s future.  Adding: “We must learn lessons from the last General Election.”
Responding to a question about the imminent report of the Mahon Tribunal and its fallout for Fianna Fáil,  particularly in light of former leader Bertie Ahern’s involvement, he observed that all the other main parties had accepted corporate donations in the past.
“I think there has been a problem systemically within the political system regarding corporate donations.
In terms of Mahon, we will deal with its findings when they are published. I want Fianna Fail to become self-sufficient and not reliant on vested interests.
He said the future was bright for Mayo with such future candidates as Lisa Chambers.

Solid future
FORMER minister and Mayo’s sole Fianna Fáil deputy in the Dáil, Dara Calleary said last night there was a very solid future for Fianna Fáil in the county and  the organisation was now ready to hit the road.
“After the election the party needed to catch its breath. Now the focus is on listening to party members before we begin to attract new membership, ” Deputy Calleary said.
Asked by The Mayo News if the party could recover from the ‘Blue Wave’ that returned four Fine Gael TDs in the county last February, he said:  “Waves come in and go out. It is possible constituency reform will mean we go down to a four-seat constituency here in Mayo but I have no worries about that. After all, the ‘Blue Wave’ hasn’t protected Mayo’s health services. It hasn’t delivered on jobs, or the N5 or N26.”  
Dismissing a call by a disillusioned Fianna Fáil party Councillor from Donegal who, in a scathing attack, warned that the party founded by Eamon De Valera would not survive the Cork man’s leadership, Dara Calleary said he did not agree with the Donegal councillor.
“Micheál Martin became leader at the worst juncture in the history of the party. He has had to implement a lot of internal work in terms of management first.”