The opposition leader made the comments as he strongly suggested his party will instead focus on promoting a new generation of TDs, despite a year of claims that they are plotting to remove him if Fianna Fáil does not regain power.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner before the party’s pre-election ard fheis today, and as Fine Gael launched its first political attack adverts against the opposition group, Mr Martin repeatedly declined to say if he would allow Ms Hanafin’s front-bench return should she win a seat in her Dun Laoghaire constituency.
The former education minister ignored a party call for her not to run in the 2014 local elections, before being added to the planned one-person general election ticket last year amid opposition from running mate Cormac Devlin.
However, despite Ms Hanafin having further ambitions to return to the front bench, when asked several times about the possibility, Mr Martin emphasised his determination to give a new generation of TDs front bench opportunities.
“Whoever gets elected will have a role to play,” he said. “But I will be basing it on talent, energy and commitment, and will not be guided by and other issues.”
Mr Martin name-checked a number of younger TDs such as Robert Troy and Barry Cowen who have achieved high-profiles quickly, before saying he is keen to continue to promote a new generation.
However, despite a year of claims that elements within the younger generation may move against Mr Martin if he fails to win more than 35 seats due to their own political ambitions, the Fianna Fáil leader said he has no concerns people are “plotting” against him.
“Not at all, never. They’d never suggest anything like that,” he said when asked about health spokesman Billy Kelleher, finance spokesman Michael McGrath, jobs spokesman Dara Calleary, transport spokesman Timmy Dooley, and others who are mooted as potential future leaders.
While no motions will be taken at today’s ard fheis due to the proximity of the general election, delegates attending at the City West Hotel in Dublin are likely to discuss health, education, and economic policies, and whether to remain in opposition or join with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael newspaper adverts published today will attempt to remind voters of Fianna Fáil’s economic crisis links, highlighting ghost estates and saying: “Don’t let Fianna Fáil come back to haunt us.”