FIANNA FÁIL leader Micheál Martin has apologised for the mistakes made by his party in Government – and has reassured Irish language enthusiasts in the county that Gaeilge is at the heart of his party’s policy.
In an exclusive interview with Foinse yesterday, Mr Martin also revealed that he believes a leaders’ debate as Gaeilge should be an essential part of any election campaign.
And he vowed to keep Irish at the centre of Government policy if Fianna Fail is returned to power.
“I am proud of what my party has achieved for the Irish language and I am hopeful about the 20 year Strategy,” he said, as controversy continues over the Fine Gael policy of scrapping compulsory Irish from schools.
“Irish is a central part of Irish society and Irish culture and this is an historic opportunity for the language both inside and outside the Gaeltacht.”
Mr. Martin believes a Fine Gael and Labour partnership is not the answer to Ireland’s problems. He told Foinse: “It would be the worst match ever. We are only a week into the election campaign and already the other parties are fighting amongst themselves and changing their policies. We need to be honest about the challenges that are before us and the other political parties simply do not have a realistic or comprehensive plan for the future.”
Mr. Martin apologised for the last government’s mistakes and asked voters not to use this election to punish his party: “I understand that people are angry and not only with Fianna Fáil but it will do no good if this anger is used to get votes. I would say to people look at each parties plans and make a decision based on that. This is no time for empty promises.”
The first of the leaders debates took place this week on TV3 without the participation of Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny. Micheál Martin, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny have accepted TG4’s invitation and will take part in a debate as Gaeilge. Eimear Ní Chonaola of Nuacht TG4 will chair the debate which will be broadcast at 7pm next Wednesday.
Martin told Foinse:“ I believe that these debates are essential as this is a very different election and each parties plans need to be examined in detail. I want to have a debate as Gaeilge because I believe that is only right that the language has a central role. Those of us who are in public life need to show a good example and I would ask why wouldn’t we have a debate as Gaeilge?”
Enda Kenny and his party have maintained their stance on the Irish language; their policy favours removing Irish as a compulsory subject for the Leaving Cert.
Mr. Martin told Foinse that he was not reluctant to put his name forward as leader of the party last month as he felt that he needed to take a stand for what he believes in.
“I would like to think that I am a passionate person who believes in this country. I am strong, I can lead and I will do what is brave and what is right” he said.
Fianna Fáil’s new leader hopes to restore the public confidence in his party and believes that Fianna Fáil’s trade, tourism and investment plans will create 300,000 jobs within five years.
“The other parties talk about creating jobs but they do not have a plan which will fix our other problems. Fianna Fáil have the two plans which are essential for our future” he said.