FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has appointed former Social Protection minister Éamon Ó Cuív as the party’s new deputy leader, as part of a minor reshuffle following the death of Brian Lenihan.
Ó Cuív, who will retain his position as party spokesman on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, becomes the party’s fourth deputy leader in six months, following Lenihan, Mary Hanafin, and the former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan.
The party’s previous spokesman on public expenditure, Michael McGrath – a constituency colleague of the party leader in Cork South Central – has been promoted to finance spokesman, filling the portfolio vacated by the late Lenihan.
McGrath’s previous brief will be taken on by Sean Fleming, who will combine it with his previous position as spokesman on public sector reform.
The changes had been widely anticipated, as Ó Cuív had been deputising for Martin in the Dáil in more recent weeks, while McGrath had sat in for Lenihan during ministerial questions in the time before and after the former minister’s death.
Martin said he was confident that the three new appointments would “provide robust and constructive challenge to the Government in the next term of the Dáil”.
In a statement, McGrath paid tribute to the work done by his late predecessor. “Brian was a great colleague and friend, and I learned a great deal from him. It is not possible for anyone to fill his shoes, but I will fulfil the role to the best of my ability.”
Ó Cuív – like Lenihan and Hanafin – had contested January’s election for the FF leadership, ultimately finishing in second place thanks to generous transfers from the other duo.
The appointment of Ó Cuív as deputy leader could be a sign that Fianna Fáil will be putting forward a candidate in the presidential election after all.
It had been reported that Martin was not keen on running a Fianna Fáil candidate in the election, while Ó Cuív – a grandson of Fianna Fáil’s founder and former president Éamon de Valera – was said to be interested in actually running for the position himself.
The appointment of Ó Cuív may therefore indicate that the party is preparing to run him in October’s election – or, at least, that the differing opinions between him and Martin may have been resolved.
The latest front bench appointments mark the fourth different Fianna Fáil front bench in seven months: Martin appointed an interim front bench ahead of the election campaign, while the formal front bench remained in the cabinet.
Martin then appointed a more long-term front bench in the weeks after the election, which saw the party’s representation in the Dáil and Seanad reduced from 97 to just 34.
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