Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has called on the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to urgently explain the exact role of the Economic Management Council.

It comes following comments from Minister for Protection Joan Burton, who said that the Cabinet sub-committee that looks at budgetary issues is possibly being dominated by civil servants and policy advisers.

Mr Martin said it is incredible that a member of Cabinet would say such things.

He asked whether the committee is constitutional, and he said that Ms Burton obviously feels she is not a full member of Cabinet.

Mr Martin also said his party did not accept that the abolition of the Seanad could save €20m a year.

He said the Clerk of the Dáil provided a figure of half that amount.

He was speaking at the launch of a Fianna Fáil strategy to increase female participation in the party.

The party wants at least 33% of its new area representatives to be female.

The fact that a majority in the parliamentary party voted against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill would not damage this drive to increase female membership, he said.

Elsewhere, a group calling itself The National Independent Party unveiled a steering committee at a press conference in Dublin this morning.

Spokesperson Martin Critten said the current policies pursued by the political establishment are failing and ordinary people are suffering.

The party said it will run as many candidates as possible in the local elections next year.

It is opposed to the party whip system used in the Dáil and wants a separation of sovereign and banking debt.