Micheál Martin shows his hand

Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s ‘back me or sack’ challenge to his party has drawn out his first serious challenger.  The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, Micheál Martin, has tendered his resignation  and has said that Fianna Fáil should change its leader before the Irish General Election.

From the RTÉ report

[Micheál Martin] said that he has reluctantly concluded that Fianna Fáil should change its leader before the General Election.

He welcomed the Taoiseach’s announcement this evening to table a vote of confidence in his leadership.

However, he said he will be voting against the vote of confidence and has offered his resignation to the Taoiseach.

He said the continuing decline of the party was a reason for his offering his resignation. Latest opinion polls, resignations post Christmas and the absence of direction of late has led him to the move. He said ‘survival of the party is at stake’.

He said low morale within the party and unhappiness amongst the public was also a reason.

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party’s secret ballot on a vote of confidence in Brian Cowen is due to take place on Tuesday.

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  • dennis the menace

    Latest opinion polls, resignations post Christmas and the absence of direction of late has led him to the move. He said ‘survival of the party is at stake’……………

    sounds like the ulster unionists

  • pippakin

    To be honest I can see nothing innocent about Martin. He was, and is, part of the ‘team’. He can switch off his responsibility if he likes, others will take a different view.

    The popularity of the party will change at the election, not before, and not by someone who has to defend the budget and his own part of it.

  • George

    Showed his hand in a windowless hotel room standing on his own in front of a white screen.

    Refuses to resign as a Minister and refuses to challenge Cowen.

    Some hand…

  • Dewi

    Strange – he ain’t the bloke is he? Unless he’s in cahoots with Lenihan?

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    Does it really count as resigning over Clowen’s leadership if his resignation wasn’t accepted?

    Pippakin: I agree, he’s as implicated in the mess as anyone (someone over on politics.ie even has an order of the people to be shot after the revolution..Martin is joint 4th I think) but I guess he’s trying this to save at least a bit of face by saying ‘well, I offered to resign.’ It’s not much, but maybe better than some other FF folk.

  • andnowwhat

    Should we be thankfull to the banks for killing any last vestige of the notion of patriotism in Ireland and the UK?

    I think we should.

    Any patriots left are the saddest of fools.

  • joeCanuck

    Aces and eights?

  • joeCanuck

    Has Cowen painted himself into a very small corner? Resignation of such a senior Minister would normally need a major cabinet reshuffle in most countries. Does Cowen have sufficient authority left to persuade Ministers to shift portfoloios two months or so before a General Election? I think he is f**ked.

  • Well done Micheál Martin – i thought he spoke from the heart

  • Brian Walker

    Plenty of British echoes from over 20 years…
    Michael Heseltine the challenger to Thatcher failed to take the prize. Will that be Martin’s fate?

    Cowen has learned the lesson from Thatcher’s toppling by lobbying his whole party electorate separately rather than allowing opposition to coalesce. The question remains though: have they told him the truth? We’ll find out tomorrow.

    In the coaltion talks with the Lib Dems that never got off the ground, Gordon Brown offered to resign as leader while continiing as PM for a short time. This was rejected as impractical. Biffo rejects splitting the Taoiseach’s role with that of party leader. But he hopes to emulate Brown in seeing off any challenge before the general election. He argues that sacking him now would be taken by voters as FF repudiating their own policies at the vital moment of passing the budget, whatever the protests to the contrary, That could be disastrous for stability,

    Cowen’s position as taoiseach is quite similar to Brown’s before the election The choice for FF seems between letting Cowen take the main hit of defeat and electing a new leader in the new Dail to start with a clean sheet, and electing a new leader now in the hope of minimising the scale of defeat.

    Cowen must believe that any FF leader new or old is compelled to fight on the governments’ record, so why not hang on?

    Martin must believe a new leader could limit the damage. The most expert voters in the country, tomorrow’s voters in the secret leadership ballot, will tell us whether in the end it makes any difference who leads Fiannna Fail.

    I’m impressed with Cowen’s resolve. While it may be a Hobson’s choice, this is surely the correct behaviour of a prime minister in office at a time of crisis with essential business left to transact before an election. .Putting country before party an all that…

  • the old Manxman

    I don’t doubt that Martin believes that FF will do different with a new leader. He’s probably right to some extent. Despite all those in the RedC poll vowing never to vote FF again, a change of leader and admission of past errors might cause some amelioration. With Biffo scoring only slightly better than Gerry Adams as potential Taoiseach (and that before the golf revelations) the only way is up.

    It may also be more selfless than it looks – as has already been pointed out, wielding the knife doesn’t usually get you the crown. But it may mean someone else does.

    But it may also have a bit of self-interest as well. At current polling levels even Martin’s seat in Cork may be at risk – certainly two seats for FF looks impossible. A challenge, successful or not, would probably be enough to make sure he got elected. And the first hurdle to being the next leader of FF will just be to get back in the Dail

  • Greenflag

    The earlier Tory ‘ditching ‘ of Thatcher in favour of John Major no doubt helped hold off Neil Kinnock’s challenge in 1992 . There are cases when a change of leader can bring victory or hold off a probable defeat .

    Ireland 2011 is not one of those cases . An FF leadership change may reduce the loss but it will not be enough to stave off defeat at the general election. Martin has thrown down the gauntlet -first out of the traps as it were . Others in the succession stakes may prefer to bide their time until the electorate calls game over . The problem with that scenario for FF is that the game may be permanently over with FF being outvoted by FG, Labour and SF and being cast into that outer political darkness like the old Home Rule Party of 1918 from which there is no return .

    Is it conceivable that most of the cabinet on the SS Fianna Fail prefer to go down with the ship with all hands aboard rather than face a long climb back to their former ‘glory’.

    Looked at from the big picture FF have not won an election as a single party since the 1980’s . They have been forced to coalesce since as long as I can remember .

  • Squall23

    Anything that this Fianna Fáil government can do wrong, it is doing wrong. Brian Cowen has been a lame duck for 18 months, the time for change has come too late.

  • Munsterview

    Micheal Martins actions are completely in character his political career have been carefully and cautiously build, he is not one for the bold decisive, burn the bridges behind him move.

    As it stands he is the main contender, some would say instigator of the present heave but yet he has managed to project the image of someone doing something rather reluctantly and painfully for the sake of the party and country, Jack Lynch style.

    If it works, it works and if not he has done just enough to stake out his claim without upsetting too many apple carts. He has outflanked Lenihan and is sitting pretty.

    The problem for the Martin camp is if they moved too forcefully on the leadership issue they could alienate the Cowen block of voters. While these are a minority inside the party, they will make the decisive difference in selecting the new FF leader.

    Michael’s tactic is to push as far as he can but stop well short of annoying Biffos Palace Guard.

    Has it been enough ? Micheal got a reputation on the way up politically for having the ability ‘to mind mice at a crossroads’ This caution also led in an earlier period to the rather unkind label of ‘Miss Out Martin’ as he was not forceful or assertive enough when the goodies were divided up within the party.

    Slow and steady he got there and with hindsight proved himself to be a crafty maneuverer, even if it was not always evident at the time. Is this another such occasion ?

    Time will tell, if the numbers stack up against Brian Cowen, Michael is well ahead of the pack, if not he has not burned any bridges and all his political rodents are still sitting pretty in the middle of the cross-road. Vintage Micheal !

  • Progressive Unionist

    Yes, but it seems a bit odd though – if you’re thinking of sticking in the knife then you’d better either stick it in the whole way or refrain from doing so altogether.

    Micheal Martin’s gone for a debilitating middle course – “no confidence in the Taoiseach but remaining in the Cabinet” – what kind of principled position is that?

    I watched RTE news last night and felt that Michael had blown it – if he was gonna go in he should have resigned and gone in the whole way.

    With an election in the south imminent it is interesting that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are riven by internal disputes and disunited.

    If ever there was a time for Irish Labour to break through then this is it! First Labour Taoiseach perhaps?

  • Munsterview

    Progressive U : ” what kind of principled position is that?”

    It has been a long, long time indeed since Fianna Failed had anything to do with principle !

    To an extent Fianna Failed and and Fine Gael are in the same position as Sinn Fein was at the ceasefire,they are defined as much by what they were against as by what they were for. In recent years many of the financial, social and other policies shared common ground and were aimed at the same electorate sectors.

    In these circumstances FF opposing FG or FG opposing FF just for the sake of it did not make sense to the younger element of their common electorate, or the younger elected representative either.

    The Lenihan and Boland law library wings of both parties live cheek by jowl for most of their working day and indeed formal cultural life in the evenings. The same apply to the significant banking, stockbroker, insurance and other financial services people. It also applies to areas like estate agencies.

    These service financial service industries people regard themselves as one large common constituency with a standard of life based on State patronage and insider privilege to protect.

    They in particular have been questioning the luxury of using two competing parties to deliver essentially the same goods to the same market sector, and indeed the ability of FF and FG as ‘catch all populist parties’ to ‘service’ their special market sectors in the elitist, exclusive way they did in the past.

    Greed is still good in these circles, they will protect their vested interests against all comers and if it takes a PD mark two to accomplish this, just the same as we have had a new left alliance independent of Labour and Sinn Fein, so too also expect a new party to represent this force emerging.

    Tedious and all as the Dame Enda and now Brian Cowen heave details are, they are but the opening shots in a coming election war that will leave a totally changed political landscape behind.

    It is not so much that both parties are riven with dispute as Old Political Parties having to focus on a narrower and more clearly defined influential sectors in their parties. These sectors have been posing the question and flying kites regarding the necessity of having two political parties representing their sector.

    If the left is on the rise, as it apparently is and presenting a real threat to these forces as it also apparently is, then these forces will protect themselves and their bastions of privilege from inside their own ranks, if they cannot rely in a disorientating Fianna Failed or a riven Fine Gael to do so.

    One illustration of this privilege : Cleaners of Superior Court Judges in the Four Courts on minimum wages have had some of their wages levied by statute to pay the bonds of International financial speculators. Their minimum wages are nowfurder reduced by a further euro since the last budget !

    Some of these same Judges on a multiple of 10 X or more of their cleaner’s wages, because of a constitutional provisions, cannot be levied and have so far refused to pay over one brown cent on a voluntary basis. Cuts are only for us ordinary folk!

    I still pose the question : just what did we do in the South to piss off the Chinese big time ?