Fianna Fáil leadership contender Darragh O’Brien has taken a step back in the race to replace Micheál Martin by saying he is backing Mr Martin to lead the party into the next general election, and beyond that again.
Mr O’Brien was seen as one of the leading contenders to take over from Mr Martin, who has just stepped down as Taoiseach and taken up the role of Tánaiste.
It was expected up until a few months ago that he would step aside well in time for the next general election, due in February 2025 at the latest, to give a successor a good chance to bed-in.
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But now it is increasingly looking like Mr Martin’s challengers are fading and that his recent growth in popularity could leave the way open for him to remain party chief for years to come.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Mirror, leading contender to take over, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, indicated he has no hunger for the top job anymore.
He said: “What I’ve been really focused on is, I mean this, delivery on housing, putting the foundations in place for housing.
“There’s a couple of big things, like affordable housing, the Lande Development Agency and the Planning Bill I’m bringing through.
“My party leader, I think by any fair assessment, as Taoiseach, has done an unbelievable job through a really difficult time.
“He’ll be our leader going into the next general election and my absolute focus is only on the delivery of our housing agenda to make a real difference for our people.”
Mr O’Brien has previously made it very clear that he wants to be the next leader of Fianna Fáil, so the Mirror asked him if this meant he was now toning down his ambitions.
The former leader-in-waiting responded by referring to Mr Martin’s relatively young age for a political leader, 62.
He said Micheál Martin should "100%” lead into the next election and he added: “the qualities he’s brought through his experience and he’s been steadfast in his beliefs….. He’s not old you know.
“He’s a great guy to work with.”
The Mirror then asked if this means his leadership ambitions have “abated” and he said: “100%, like he’s going to lead us into the next general election,” and when he asked if he wanted Mr Martin to lead again after the next election, Mr O’Brien was forthright, saying: “absolutely, I’ve enough to be doing with what I have to be doing in Housing, in Local Government, in Heritage and also my own work in Dublin Fingal.”
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