Four FF members of Cabinet say Martin should lead party into next general election

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue calls on internal Fianna Fáil critics to ‘cop on’

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly: he said   Micheál Martin was doing an “excellent job” at “a very difficult time”.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly: he said Micheál Martin was doing an “excellent job” at “a very difficult time”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Four of Fianna Fáil’s members of the Cabinet have insisted that the party’s leader and Taoiseach Micheál Martin should stay in post and also lead the party into the next general election.

Calling on internal Fianna Fáil critics to “cop on”, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue was one of a number of senior party figures to rally to Mr Martin’s defence following the party’s dismal performance in the Dublin Bay South byelection.

“It’s time that a minority in the party copped on and got with the programme,” said Mr McConalogue, saying they were “distracting” from the party’s work in the three-party coalition with Fine Gael and the Greens.

Mr McConalogue, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, Michael McGrath, who holds the Public Expenditure and Reform brief, and Minister for Education Norma Foley said Mr Martin should lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election and not step down when he leaves the Taoiseach’s office at the end of 2022.

Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said Mr Martin was doing an “excellent job” at “a very difficult time” and had his “full confidence and is doing the job people in Ireland need him to be doing”, though he did not explicitly address questions on Mr Martin’s future.

Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers, a Minister of State for Sport and the Taoiseach, said Mr Martin had a “huge mandate” from the party’s membership, and that Fianna Fáil must proceed with “unity of purpose”.

Minister of State Mary Butler said internal criticism was “so unhelpful” from a small minority of Fianna Fáil parliamentary party members “while we’re dealing with a possible fourth wave and trying to open up the country”.

Ministers of State Niall Collins, Thomas Byrne and James Browne agreed Mr Martin should not face a motion of no confidence, that he should lead the party into the next election, and should not step down as leader when the Taoiseach’s office rotates.

Anne Rabbitte and Sean Fleming did not respond to queries. Minister of State Robert Troy said Mr Martin has his “full confidence”, but he did not specifically address whether he should lead FF into the next election, or stand down when he leaves the Taoiseach’s chair.

No support

Among the wider parliamentary party there is virtually no support for a motion of confidence, but a growing number of TDs now believe he should step down ahead of the next general election.

Backbenchers contacted on Monday expressed a range of views, but the evidence was not conclusive as to whether or not that is the prevailing view within the parliamentary party.

Some argue the party’s difficulties cannot be ascribed solely to the party’s leadership. A small number would not disclose their views on the leadership issue, even when speaking privately.

Dublin South West TD John Lahart said he supported the motion of holding a special meeting to discuss the fallout from the byelection but did not support a motion of confidence.

However, there was some criticism of Mr Martin’s performance from newer backbench TDs.

“The Cabinet Ministers are all rallying around the Taoiseach saying his performance is adequate when it is not,” said one, speaking anonymously. “If we do not do anything I personally think it will be a bloodbath in the next election.”