Ballymahon adviser 'confident' on FF leadership contest

A special adviser to Fianna Fail leadership favourite Micheal Martin has come out in defence of the former Foreign Affairs minister as the party prepares to elect a new leader this week.

A special adviser to Fianna Fail leadership favourite Micheal Martin has come out in defence of the former Foreign Affairs minister as the party prepares to elect a new leader this week.

Ballymahon's Christy Mannion has served as one of Mr Martin's most senior political aides for over a decade and across four different government departments.

Until just over a week ago, the south Longford native was busy working behind the scenes in the Cork South Central TD's foreign affairs office.

But following Mr Martin's shock resignation from Cabinet and subsequent Fianna Fail leadership campaign in the wake of Brian Cowen's exit as party leader, the Ballymahon GAA enthusiast has effectively seen his own employment responsibilities change overnight.

Speaking to the Leader on Monday, and in advance of the private Fianna Fail members motion on Wednesday, Mr Mannion was bullish about the Cork politican's leadership chances.

"We would be quite confident about winning," he said in the aftermath of the Green Party's decision to opt out of Government.

"Obviously with all the talk of the leadership there is a certain degree of uncertainty. Yes, the election will be very, very difficult but what we need to do is elect a new leader so that it has a unifying and rallying impact on the party."

Mr Mannion rejected criticism aimed at the former Cork Lord Mayor's reluctance to immediately step down as Minister for Foreign Affairs last week when announcing his intention to hold a 'no confidence' motion against Mr Cowen.

He said by doing so would have had a divisive effect on the party's ability to cope with recent pressures brought about by a breakdown in communications at senior government level.

"He was asked not to resign and to stay until we had the debate (no confidence motion in Mr Cowen) on Tuesday night so that it would not polarise people," he said.

Having spent 13 years working in a raft of portfolios including education, health, enterprise, trade and employment and more recently foreign affairs, Mr Mannion said even the harshest of critics would find it hard to call into question Mr Martin's near 22 year political career.

"The smoking ban and the work in special needs when in education are just some (of the highlights). His (Mr Martin's) record stands up; he has made a tremendous contribution to politics," he said.