Martin forces Ó Cuív to resign as deputy leader of FF

Thu, Mar 1, 2012, 00:00

FIANNA FÁIL leader Micheál Martin effectively sacked his deputy leader Eamon Ó Cuív yesterday after the Galway West TD openly defied the party’s support for the fiscal treaty referendum.

Mr Martin announced last evening that he had accepted Mr Ó Cuív’s resignation as deputy leader and as spokesman on energy over his refusal to support Fianna Fáil’s position on the fiscal compact.

“It meant it was no longer feasible for him to occupy those roles,” he said.

But Mr Ó Cuív, in media interviews, indicated that the resignation had been forced upon him, although he said he had told Mr Martin on Tuesday night that he was prepared to face the consequence of his stance on the referendum.

“I got a phone call at four o’clock [from Mr Martin] telling me to resign and telling me I was no longer a member of the front bench.

“The front-bench position had not been discussed. I accept that it is his prerogative to have a deputy leader that agrees with his view and to have a front bench that accepts this issue.”

Mr Ó Cuív’s public opposition to the treaty as it is constituted threatened to overshadow the party’s ardfheis this weekend, its first in three years and one perceived as crucial in its efforts to rebuild following the electoral drubbing of last year.

It also posed the first major challenge to Mr Martin since he became leader in January last year.

From the moment when Mr Ó Cuív contradicted Mr Martin’s views on TG4 on Tuesday, party parliamentarians said the leader had no choice but to force the issue.

There was support from TDs and Senators for Mr Martin’s action. The view of many was that it will bolster his authority ahead of the ardfheis.

Mr Ó Cuív will remain a member of the parliamentary party. But Mr Martin said it “was inevitable that he would lose the party whip as he cannot see himself voting for the treaty in the Dáil”.

However, Mr Ó Cuív said there was no reason for him to lose the whip. “There is nothing incompatible with having a mind of your own on an issue and being a member of Fianna Fáil.”

He strongly dismissed rumours about a possible defection to Sinn Féin.

Mr Ó Cuív confirmed he was withdrawing from the election for the party’s vice-presidency at the ardfheis. Sources said he had taken the decision to avoid any potential divisiveness within the wider party.

Mr Ó Cuív set out his opposition to the treaty last night.

“Over the last year I have been consistently worried about Europe being run by two political leaders and small countries having very little say,” he said. “This is contrary to the whole basis of Europe . . . This is about a firm, personal belief I have.”

Saying that a reduction in Ireland’s debt burden and changes in European bank regulation were required, he continued: “I could not in conscience knock on doors looking for support for this without these issues being dealt with.”

For his part, Mr Martin said that having such contradictory views could not be countenanced.

“There was no doubt that his position was not tenable if he was going to vote against the treaty and vote against it in the Dáil. I am not going to play games with issues that go to the core of the future of Europe,” said Mr Martin.

Fianna Fáil members in Mr Ó Cuív’s Galway West constituency last night described his resignation from the deputy leadership as a “severe body blow”.

Former senator Nioclás Ó Conchúbhair, whose family were founding members of Fianna Fáil, said it was time now for the party to make a “clean sweep” and elect a new leadership.