Micheál Martin, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, still has his eye on the position of European Commission President, insiders have claimed.
Rumours surrounding Martin’s covert campaign for the job have been circulating since June, with senior officials within his Fianna Fáil party continuing to insist that he is interested in the role.
Speaking to Extra, a senior source within the party described Martin as continuing to campaign for a lead role in Brussels, adding that the deputy PM’s rejection of the rumour back in June was false.
“Look, Micheál said he didn’t want to be Minister for Foreign Affairs either and see where we ended up,” the source said.
The source insisted that “there is no doubt” Martin has been eying up a position in the Berlaymont building and that such a role could be a viable option for the politician if his party crashes during the 2024 elections.
“If the results are not good in the local and European elections that old instinct for self-preservation will kick in,” the source said.
Martin’s position as Ireland’s minister of foreign affairs and minister of defence was also cited as evidence of his allegedly forthcoming move by the Fianna Fáil insider.
“Having defence and foreign affairs means – given that defence is treated seriously in most European countries – that he has two sets of ministers to canvass.
“Micheál would not be so coarse as to canvass for a big EU job but all those meetings are very useful for signalling capacity and availability.”
Micheál Martin, Ireland's former prime minister, is reportedly a frontrunner to replace Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission. https://t.co/Cqvewdp3mU
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) July 10, 2023
Such comments follow similar rumours out of Martin’s party over the past few months. Some insiders see Martin’s leadership as becoming increasingly untenable due to the group’s poor performance over the past decade.
Although a move to Brussels is seen as a possible escape mechanism for the senior politician, there are now a growing number of factors indicating he may not end up opting for Europe’s top job if offered it.
One major negative of the role is that it is not seen as prestigious in Ireland, with many Irish politicians who end up leaving for Brussels falling off the political map at home.
“The thing with being European Commissioner is that, apart from all the hard work, you actually disappear from Irish public life. You lose all your power and authority,” one source familiar with Martin said.
Some are now speculating he may try to run for the position of Ireland’s president instead.
While that role is purely ceremonial, some are predicting Martin could enter the race for the job in the hopes of keeping out the country’s former prime minister Bertie Ahern.
Martin’s old boss, Ahern has left a mixed legacy in Ireland. Many associate him with various allegations of corruption and dodgy dealings.
According to the source, an attempt by Ahern to win the presidency would likely offend Martin, who is described as working hard to distance Fianna Fáil from the legacy of the former prime minister.
“It’s personal and political,” the source said. “[Martin] would see it as the undoing of his main legacy, exorcising the ghost of Ahern from the party.”
Another party insider also expressed dread at the thought of Ahern becoming president.
“‘Bertie is like that scene from the Godfather where Michael Corleone says, ‘just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in’; every time we think he has gone he comes back,” the insider said.
“We have spent two decades trying to bury that legacy of tribunals and economic collapses and just when we think we have done it, he leaps out of the box again.”