FF policy decision-making ‘very different from SF,’ says McConalogue

Parliamentary party members set Fianna Fáil policy, not ‘unelected officials’

Fianna Fáil has rejected claims by Mary Lou McDonald that their party’s ard chomhairle is similar to Sinn Féin’s when it comes to determining policy.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have ruled out coalition with Sinn Féin after the next election because of claims by these parties that it is guided by unelected party and former IRA members.

The Irish Times reported on Monday that all Sinn Féin TDs including the leader, Senators and candidates must sign a pledge to be guided by instructions from its ruling body, the ard comhairle.

Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue dismissed the Sinn Féin leader’s comparison after Ms McDonald said in an RTÉ Morning Ireland interview that such provisions are common to all political parties.


She said the Fianna Fáil ard comhairle is the “supreme authority” between ardfheiseanna and members make pledges to abide by its rules.

Mr McConalogue said “the reality is very much different from Sinn Féin and the pledge that they’re obliged to sign up to”.

He was speaking at the party launch in Dublin of its agriculture proposals which pledge to protect the State 137,500 farm families.

Speaking about the party’s policy decision-making the Donegal TD said: “It’s our parliamentary party that sets policy and we take guidance from the people in our constituency and come together as a parliamentary party and that’s where policy is agreed and set out.”

He cited comments by Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín, a former Sinn Féin TD, who said the party was very centrally controlled and TDs had zero influence.

He also referred to claims that decisions on policy issues for the party in the North were made by unelected officials.

“That’s very different from how other parties operate,” Mr Tóibín said.

Fianna Fáil horticulture spokesman Jackie Cahill said "our grassroots members have a distinct say in the way policy direction goes" and he would bring the views of his Tipperary constituency to the parliamentary party.

Both men insisted all Fianna Fáil TDs supported leader Micheál Martin’s stance that there would be no coalition with Sinn Féin.

Mr McConalogue’s Donegal constituency colleague Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher said in a radio interview that he would prefer coalition with Sinn Féin.

“We’ve outlined very, very clearly that we’ll not be going into government with Sinn Féin,” he said adding that “Pat the Cope fully accepts the party position in that regard”.

He was “not worried” about the possibility of being less transfer friendly from Sinn Féin than his colleague.

“We outlined very clearly in the last election campaign in relation to government option and what we would do and we followed through very clearly on that.”

His party was seeking a mandate for change but Sinn Féin “are holding open the option of going into coalition with Fine Gael after the election which wouldn’t bring about change and which would see Leo Varadkar returned as Taoiseach were that to happen”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times