Martin 'happy to serve in any capacity'

Minister Micheál Martin is being tipped for a high-profile position in the Department of Finance once Brian Cowen becomes Taoiseach on May 6.

With no other candidates coming forward, it now seems a certainty that Minister Cowen will be unopposed to lead Fianna Fáil after Mr Ahern officially steps aside next month.

If and when Minister Cowen is voted in as Taoiseach in the Dáil on May 6, he will then have to announce a new Cabinet and travel to Áras an Uachtaráin with his Ministers to get new seals of office from President Mary McAleese.

While Minister Cowen is not expected to make dramatic changes, he will have at least one senior Ministry to fill as he himself moves on from the Department of Finance.

One of the lead candidates to take over in the Department of Finance is Cork South Central TD and Minister for Enterprise Micheál Martin.

He already serves in a key economic portfolio, and has more than a decade of Cabinet experience.

Economists have warned that whoever takes over the Department of Finance will have some tough decisions ahead, and will have to introduce one of the toughest budgets in years next December.

Minister Martin warned that there will be a lot of “idle speculation” about the new Cabinet.

“Brian Cowen is very much his own man. He knows his colleagues and their strengths, and it’s on that basis that he will make his decisions,” he said.

“It is a matter entirely for the incoming Taoiseach. I will be happy to serve in any capacity,” he added.

Minister Cowen and Minister Martin have worked together closely in recent years, as both serve in the Cabinet’s key economic portfolios.

While Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan’s Dublin base is a strong advantage in the race to become Tánaiste, he has only been a full Cabinet Minister for less than a year, having been appointed to the Department of Justice after last May’s election.

All challengers from the ranks of senior ministers have now officially ruled themselves out of the running, and confirmed that they will support Brian Cowen for the top job.

After Minister Martin’s announcement of support for Minister Cowen yesterday morning, a line of other Ministers came forward to express their support for Mr Cowen, including Mary Hanafin, Dermot Ahern, Martin Cullen, Willie O’Dea, Mary Coughlan, Seamus Brennan and Noel Dempsey.

Meanwhile, the Fianna Fáil grouping in Dáil Éireann now stands at 79, as Beverly Flynn returned to the party last night.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern personally proposed her readmission to the party at a meeting yesterday evening for the National Executive.

Article courtesy of The Evening Echo newspaper

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