Fianna Fáil TD rejects party leader’s criticism of Sinn Féin

John McGuinness says Micheál Martin is focused on ‘history’ rather than the future

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness has downplayed his party leader's suggestion that Sinn Féin is controlled by "shadowy figures" and claims his own party has similar decision-making procedures.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD, who has been a frequent critic of his Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin, said: “He [Martin] blames the Sinn Féin ard chomairle for making decisions but if you look at any political party it is indeed an unelected group, or an ard chomairle, that makes the decisions.

“I find it strange that they would say that the [Fianna Fáil] TDs are consulted - sometimes we’re not consulted at all.”

The former Public Accounts Committee chairman said he hoped the government formed after Saturday’s vote would be a centre-left one aimed at delivering “an agenda of social change”, focusing on health, the elderly and housing.

However, he described recent comments from Mr Martin, that Sinn Féin were controlled by "shadowy figures" within its ard chomairle, as "strange", and argued the decision-making process was similar for Fianna Fáil.

His party’s grassroots felt “excluded” and were less inclined to get involved at ard fheis, he said.

Speaking while canvassing in his constituency, Mr McGuinness said Mr Martin was also wrong to rule out talks with Sinn Féin when forming the next government.

“I firmly believe that we should be talking to everybody - and that includes Sinn Féin. Whatever the coalition is going to be it’s not going to be a coalition that will reflect the policies of any one political party.”

He said Mr Martin was concerned with the “history of Sinn Féin” but “I look from the present to the future - I don’t look backwards”.

Speaking in Cork at the weekend, Mr Martin said the latest opinion polls confirmed there was a major desire for change in the country but he insisted Fianna Fáil was best placed to deliver that change.

"Repealing the Eighth Amendment would not have happened without Fianna Fáil, with Billy Kelleher and Lisa Chambers and Ned O'Sullivan at the Joint Oireachtas Committee looking at the issue," Mr Martin said.

“And this is what really annoys me to some extent because Sinn Féin couldn’t even vote for it at committee. All they could do was abstain and they were supposed to have an ard fheis on it and they didn’t.”

Mr Martin, who personally backed Repealing the Eighth Amendment when many of his parliamentary party expressed their opposition to such a move, was also keen to point out that Fianna Fáil supported marriage equality.

"We were the second party to call for marriage equality, Labour were the first out of traps, to be fair but we endorsed it as at an ard fheis, we brought in its predecessor, civil union and Fianna Fáil decriminalised homosexuality."