Martin hints FF TDs sacked over Dáil votes could return

Fianna Fáil leader does not rule out bringing Dooley and Collins back to front bench

 Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: repeated his view that the natural ‘cut off’ point for this Dáil is Easter next year.  File Photograph: Alan Betson

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: repeated his view that the natural ‘cut off’ point for this Dáil is Easter next year. File Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has held out the prospect of a return to senior party positions for two TDs he sacked from his frontbench over the recent Dáil voting controversy.

Mr Martin also repeated his view that the natural “cut off” point for this Dáil is Easter next year, with Easter Sunday falling on April 12th.

“We believe that the likes of Eoghan Murphy and Simon Harris…should be accountable to the people,” he said of the ministers for housing and health, saying that an election is the way to have debates on policy, rather than Dáil confidence motions.

Mr Martin sacked TDs Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins from the party’s frontbench during the recent Dáil voting controversy, and was asked if could reshuffle his senior team to bring both deputies back before the next election.

The Cork South Central TD said he keeps “all of that under review” and said that in the careers of many politicians “you have good moments, you have difficult moments”.

“And, you know, people do make returns, make comebacks. What I’m saying (is) in any political career, there’s always the future.”

Mr Martin was speaking at a press conference on the plinth at Leinster House to mark the election of two new Fianna Fáil TDs - Malcolm Byrne in Wexford and Padraig O’Sullivan in Cork North Central - in last week’s byelections.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald also held a press conference to mark the election of her party’s Mark Ward in the Dublin Mid West byelection.

After a difficult year for Sinn Féin and her leadership, Ms McDonald said the party wants to consolidate and build its strength at the next general election.

‘Farcical’

Mr Martin has said he wants a head-to-head debate with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during the general election campaign but Ms McDonald said she would “absolutely not” accept this.

“That would be, let’s face it, him and him talking to each other,” she said.

“As we are the lead party you have in Opposition, in real terms in this Dáil, it’s unthinkable that there would be a leader’s debate that would not include the leader of Sinn Féin.

“That frankly would be farcical,” Ms McDonald said, adding it would have no “public credibility at all”.

Meanwhile, Joe O’Brien, elected as a Green Party TD for Dublin Fingal in last week’s byelection, said voters “want something different”.

“People are moving from other parties, particularly to us and I can attest to that myself,” he said.”They’ve seen enough now and they do actually genuinely want to try something different.

“I think the nature of government over the last couple years has very much proven to people that there is very little difference between the two bigger options,” he added of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Green leader Eamon Ryan said the party could get a “larger” number of seats at the next election than the six seats he had previously predicted, if the recent pattern of an increase in support for the Greens continues. The Greens currently have the TDs.

Also on the plinth, Labour leader Brendan Howlin defended his party’s record on housing ahead of the Dáil motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

“The only houses that are actually now being opened now are ones that we started in our time in government,” he said of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition between 2011 and 2016. “And it really rings hollow for the developers’ friends to be criticising us.”