FF leader critical of Tánaiste in Coalition

Mon, Oct 8, 2012, 01:00

FIANNA FÁIL leader Micheál Martin has claimed that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has been weak in Government and lacks political substance.

Mr Martin said this weekend that Mr Gilmore’s comments explaining the context of events that led to Labour minister of state for health Róisín Shortall’s resignation seemed to suggest that sticking to the programme for government would destroy the Coalition’s cohesion.

The Tánaiste should have insisted on a Labour core policy being acted upon, said Mr Martin, who argued that it would not have broken the Government.

“It reflects a weakness in Eamon Gilmore in Government and lack of political substance,” he said.

The Tánaiste yesterday rejected the assertion.

“We’re not going to take lessons in Government from someone who was part of a Fianna Fáil administration which brought the country to its knees. This is the man who gave us the HSE and the health system which has to be so radically reformed,” he said.

Mr Martin was speaking ahead of the Fianna Fáil presidential dinner in the Burlington Hotel on Saturday night. In his keynote speech to the gathering of 1,000, he said people were getting angry at an ever-growing list of broken promises by the Government.

Mr Martin also accused Minister for Health Dr James Reilly of “fixing the list” in relation to primary care centres.

“James Reilly prioritised two towns in his own constituency and two areas in Roscommon for political gain rather than prioritising centres that were already agreed based on a deprivation criterion. Basically, he fixed the list. He has directly misled the Dáil on a number of occasions and his associate tried to hide the strength of their relationship.”

He said Dr Reilly was “failing”, had broken promises and was incapable of working with colleagues.

He also attacked what he called the “cynical posturing” of Sinn Féin on key issues. “We reject the idea of destructive opposition . . . It is the very definition of a short-term and unsustainable strategy,” he added.

He instanced Sinn Féin’s opposition to the fiscal treaty and also claimed the rival Opposition party had produced little by way of substantive legislation or detailed policy papers.

Mr Martin pledged Fianna Fáil support for the children’s referendum on November 10th and said it was a “good and balanced” amendment. The former TD for Dún Laoghaire and minister of state for children Barry Andrews is the party’s director of elections for the referendum.

Mr Martin told party supporters that 2012 had been a positive year for Fianna Fáil, saying that a total of 1,500 new Ógra members had been recruited in September. He also said that some 40 local area representatives had been appointed and the party was now beginning to prepare for its crucial electoral challenge, the local and European elections in 2014.

“In the next year we’ll put in place candidates for the local elections . . . and we’ll be relentless in holding this Government to account,” he said. “A strong Fianna Fáil has a vital role to play in serving the Irish people. We have a tradition of which we are proud and a determination to renew ourselves as a modern, forward-looking republican party.”