Over the last number of months there has been a lot of speculation both nationally and locally that the re - elected Sinn Fein TD for Donegal SW would emerge as the new leader of the party which now has a sizeable presence in the 31st Dail.
Pearse Dohertry has been credited with boosting Sinn Fein’s national popularity since his November by - election victory and has been keen to modernise the party’s image and move it away from the flag - waving image replacing it with strong focus on economic issues that are hurting people both North and South of the border.
Since entering the 30th. Dail, Doherty has been a frequent figure on many of the top television current affairs programmes where he has proved himself to be extremely knowledgable and a superb orator.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat/People’s Press yesterday, Deputy Pearse Doherty said, “I am aware that people have been talking about me as a potential leader and I must admit to being humbled by this speculation but I think it is time to put these rumours to bed once and for all.
“The leadership of Sinn Fein is not up for grabs and it is simply just not on the radar. It simply does not arise and I do not see myself at this juncture.
“People tend to forget that Sinn Fein is an All Ireland party and Gerry Adams is our leader - he has lead us into Government in Northern Ireland and he will do likewise her in the South in the future.
“Unlike other parties Sinn Fein operates using a collective leadership strategy - we all have our responsibilities, we bring them to the table and operate with consensus - it is a total team effort where everyone’s views are taken on board.
“The membership of Sinn Fein select the leader when a vacancy arises - it is not left to a few fellow TD’s , Senators and Councillors to decide - we prefer the democratic way.
“I have no ambition to be leader of Sinn Fein - our leader is now in the Dail.
“I have a huge responsibility in Finance - whether I retain that or not the party will decide. My main ambition now is to serve the people that elected me here in Donegal in ensuring that we get our fair crack of the whip up here.
“The incoming Government have made many promises - some of which I agree with and others that I will fight tooth and nail to prevent.
“One of our top priorities will be to ensure that both Labour and Fine Gael honour their commitment to restoring the Cancer services in Sligo General and ensuring that the status of Letterkenny General Hospital is preserved and indeed, enhanced.
“They have been hedging their statements and engaging in waffle but we will be holding them to this commitment - we have four TDs in the immediate catchment area - myself, Padraig, Coolreavy and O’ Caolain not to mention our representatives on the other side of the border.
“We will not tolerate the already depleted health service be further watered down.
“We have made our position known on bank bailouts, the IMF, the budget and the imminent cash injections to some of our toxic banks - these are not in the interest of the Irish people, these issues must be addressed immediately.
“We will also be calling on the Government partners to renegotiate the terms of the bailout - these may be national issues but affect each and every person on the streets of Donegal.”
Did Doherty feel that his resounding victory was the result of yet “another protest vote” as his detractors have been suggesting”
“I am really tired of hearing this - do people think Martin McGuinness who is the Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland still benefits from a ‘protest vote’ ? In this election I have received the second largest first preference percentage in the country - this is not a protest.
“The tide is changing - the people are more engaged, they are asking more questions and want real answers.
“Donegal is drifting towards the left - the election of Thomas Prringle has reinforced this. I am personally delighted for Thomas and he will be a great addition to Dail Eireann.
“We worked together in Sinn Fein and in the end we may not have agreed on everything but we still have a lot of policies and ideals in common and I know that with Padraig Mac Lochlainn and Thomas Pringle and myself, Donegal will have a very loud voice in Leinster House.”