Martin Ferris

Martin Ferris (born 28 March 1952) is an Irish Sinn Féin politician and former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Kerry constituency since 2016, and previously from 2002 to 2016 for the Kerry North constituency.[1]

Martin Ferris

Teachta Dála
Assumed office
February 2016
In office
February 2011  February 2016
ConstituencyKerry North–West Limerick
In office
May 2002  February 2011
ConstituencyKerry North
Personal details
Born (1952-03-28) 28 March 1952
Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland
Political partySinn Féin
Spouse(s)Máire Hoare (m. 1978)
Children6, including Toiréasa
EducationSt Mary's CBS (The Green)

Early and personal life

Ferris was born in Strand Street in Tralee, County Kerry.[2] His father was a farmer who was also a caretaker for Barrow House, which was at that time owned by an aunt. He was educated locally at Barrow National School, before going on to St Mary's CBS (The Green) and Tralee Technical School. He left school early, working on his family's farm and as a fisherman. His father died from a stroke in 1970.

Martin met his wife, Máire (née Hoare), after his release from Portlaoise Prison in 1977. They married in January 1978 and have six children. A daughter, Toiréasa, is a former Cathaoirleach (chairperson) of Kerry County Council and currently sits as a Kerry County Councillor for the Tralee electoral area.

Gaelic football career

Ferris played in the Cotter Cup at the under-14 age group as a back. He played as centre forward for Churchill GAA. He began his inter-county career in 1972 playing Under-21 football for Kerry. He lined out as a forward, beating Cork at the Munster final, although the team was beaten by Galway at the All Ireland Final. Despite being on the run, he was selected in 1973. He won an All-Ireland Under-21 Football Championship medal with Kerry, beating Mayo 2–12 to 0–13. His career was interrupted by his imprisonment later that year. After being released he resumed playing for Churchill and was selected by Mick O'Dwyer to play for the Seniors in 1978. Ferris left the Kerry training panel after the Munster final that year (in which he was unable to play), owing to poor health and Garda Special Branch surveillance.[3]

IRA activity

Ferris joined the Provisional IRA shortly after the death of his father on 29 May 1970. Aged 18, he was sworn in by Paddy Kelly and Liam Cotter, a former vice-chairman of the Kerry County Board of the GAA.[4] The IRA in Kerry was under the direction of the IRA's Southern Command, whose main responsibility was to support IRA activity in Northern Ireland.

From September 1974 to February 1975, Ferris was on the run. He was suspected of having taken part in a robbery at the Tralee post office, which resulted in £74,000 being stolen, and a robbery at the Chase Manhattan Bank in Shannon, County Clare in December 1974 which led to the theft of £159,000.[5] He was arrested by Gardaí in Youghal, County Cork, on 14 February 1975, along with two other IRA members, viz., Danny O'Sullivan and Robert McNamara. The Gardaí had been on the alert after a robbery at Central Dairies in Dungarvan, County Waterford.[6] They were later tried by the Special Criminal Court where O'Sullivan was sentenced to six and eight years concurrently. Ferris was not convicted of robbery but was remanded to Portlaoise Prison pending further charges of membership in the IRA as a proscribed organisation.[7] He was sentenced to 12 months in Portlaoise. He was released after nine months in November 1975.[8]

He was arrested again in February 1976 at a Garda roadblock in Ballinrobe, County Mayo after attending the funeral of Frank Stagg. On 16 February, he was charged with IRA membership at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, and sentenced to 18 months in prison.[9] In March 1977, Ferris took part in a hunger strike along with 20 other prisoners, demanding a public inquiry into conditions in the prison. After 32 days he was transferred to Curragh Military Hospital. The hunger strike ended after 47 days. A guarantee had been given to the prisoners by Bishop James Kavanagh that the government would work to improve prison conditions.[10] Although conditions improved somewhat, Tim Pat Coogan—a nationalist historian and former editor of The Irish Press—noted that after a visit in 1977 tensions still remained, and mentioned reports of visitors being denied visits after long distances and that strip searching was still carried out.[11] Ferris was released two months later in June 1977.[11]

In September 1984, Ferris attempted to import seven tons of explosives, firearms and ammunition,[12] as well as medications, training manuals, and communications equipment, using the fishing vessel Marita Ann, which was piloted by Mike Browne, another IRA member.[13] The plan involved rendezvousing with the trawler Valhalla, captained by Bob Anderson, which sailed from Boston, Massachusetts, transferring arms and ammunition to the Marita Ann and sailing to the south coast of County Kerry, where a number of cars were on standby to deliver the weapons to various Provisional IRA arms dumps.[14] The Marita Ann was intercepted by the Irish Navy vessels the LÉ Emer and the LÉ Aisling off the south coast of Kerry with the weapons and ammunition on board. The crew were arrested. On 11 December 1984, Ferris and two other members of the Marita Ann crew, including Browne and a United States citizen, John Crawley, were sentenced to ten years imprisonment at Portlaoise Prison. Gavin Mortimer and John McCarthy both received suspended sentences.[15] He was released on 11 September 1994.

In February 2005, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, using parliamentary privilege, named Ferris—as well as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness—as a member of the IRA Army Council, an allegation that has been denied by Ferris and the Sinn Féin leadership. In July of that year, the Irish Independent reported that Ferris,[16] along with Adams and McGuinness, had stepped down from the Army Council in the lead-up to an IRA statement on its future.

Ferris has courted controversy by his refusal to condemn the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe during a botched Post Office raid by the Provisional IRA in 1996. Ferris had also greeted Pearse McAuley and Kevin Walsh, the men charged with the manslaughter of Garda McCabe, upon their release from prison as part of the Good Friday Agreement.[17]

Political career

Kerry County Council

Following his release from prison he began focusing on community activism, particularly against drug dealing in Kerry. He was appointed to the Sinn Féin Árd Chomhairle in 1995. He ran for election to the Dáil at the 1997 general election in the Kerry North constituency, polling 5,691 first-preference votes, but was not elected. At the 1999 local elections he was elected to Kerry County Council and Tralee town council, though he failed to be elected to the European Parliament in an election held on the same day.

Dáil Éireann

Ferris was first elected to Dáil Éireann at the 2002 general election for Kerry North, topping the poll and unseating former Tánaiste Dick Spring.[18]

During the election campaign Ferris was arrested but later released. He later claimed that he had been verbally and physically assaulted while in Garda custody.[19] His biographer J.J. Barrett described the Garda surveillance of Ferris as "unhealthy", writing that "it was to backfire seriously".[20] He was re-elected in Kerry North at the 2007 general election, moving successfully to Kerry North–West Limerick for the 2011 general election and in 2016 to the Kerry constituency, again successfully.[21]

In the 31st Dáil he was the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, and also on the Marine and Natural Resources.

At the 2017 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Gerry Adams confirmed neither himself nor Martin Ferris will be standing at the next general election.[22]


  1. "Martin Ferris". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  2. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 1". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. pp. 13–14. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  3. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 1". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. pp. 115–117. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  4. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 2". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. p. 44. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  5. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 2". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. pp. 52–53. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  6. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 2". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. pp. 54–55. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  7. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 2". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. pp. 56–57. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  8. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 4". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. p. 72. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  9. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 4". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. p. 74. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  10. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 5". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. p. 109. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  11. Coogan, Tim Pat (2008). "Chapter 11:Liberals Bear their Fangs". Tim Pat Coogan: A Memoir. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-297-85110-3.
  12. "Scannal: Boston". RTÉ Television. 20 October 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  13. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 7". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. p. 129. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  14. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 7". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. p. 130. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  15. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 8". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. p. 165. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  16. "McGuinness, Adams and Ferris had quit the IRA council". Irish Independent. 23 July 2005.
  18. "Martin Ferris". Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  19. "A Draft Chronology of the Conflict – 2002". CAIN. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  20. Barrett, J.J. (2005). "Chapter 9". Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry. Brandon. p. 205. ISBN 0-86322-351-6.
  21. "Kerry results". RTÉ.ie. 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  22. "Martin Ferris says he will stand down as TD". The Irish Times. Retrieved 19 November 2017.


  • Barrett, J.J.; "Martin Ferris: Man of Kerry", ISBN 0-86322-310-9,
Preceded by
Dick Spring
(Labour Party)
Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Kerry North
Constituency abolished
New constituency Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Kerry North–West Limerick
Constituency abolished
New constituency Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Kerry
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