Fianna Fail selects Martin as leader

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The Independent Online

The Fianna Fail party attempted to stave off electoral catastrophe yesterday by choosing as its new leader a figure who has not been centrally involved in the country's economic meltdown.

The new leader is Micheal Martin who was foreign minister until he recently stepped down to challenge Brian Cowen, the party's former leader and Prime Minister.

Mr Cowen resigned last week after it became clear that almost all levels of his party had lost faith in him, with a general election now due around 28 February. No one expects Fianna Fail to win the election. Mr Martin's immediate task will be to rescue his party from potential oblivion, and to preserve enough of it to begin a long, slow recovery from its current unpopularity.

This will take place in opposition, since the party is currently scoring just 14 per cent in opinion polls. Most within the party are hoping Mr Martin's elevation will provide at least a modest bounce for a party which has recently come close to despair.

A Cork-based politician whose father was a bus driver, his ministries have included health, education and employment. His main opponent in the contest was the Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, who may have lost because he was too closely associated with the government's dire economic record.