FG grassroots cool on coalition with FF and Greens
Fianna Fáil seen as willing to promise ‘sun, moon and stars to get over the line’
Micheál Martin: Fine Gael members are said to be particular critical around the claim the Fianna Fáil leader forced the issue on cancelling the Leaving Cert. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
Fine Gael members have generally expressed antipathy to a coalition involving Fianna Fáil and clear antagonism to any link-up with the Green Party, soundings taken by the party have found.
Senior Fine Gael TDs and officials have been contacting the party’s grassroots through its branch network, and have found low levels of enthusiasm towards its prospective coalition partners.
The bulk of hostility is reserved for the Green Party, with some members expressing resentment about what they perceive as its high moral tone and attacks on rural Ireland and farming.
They have also taken issue with the claim that Fine Gael is right-wing and old-fashioned, saying it was mainly responsible for the huge social change that has taken place in the past decade.
However, members also expressed negative sentiments towards Fianna Fáil, with particular criticism around the claim Micheál Martin had forced the issue on cancelling the Leaving Cert as well as the perception that the party will sacrifice all principles so desperate is it to get into power.
“Fianna Fáil [is] very much seen as desperate to form a government at any price. They seem willing to promise the sun, moon and stars to get over the line,” said a source involved in the exercise. “Members were very clear that we cannot allow this. It is our job to call bulls**t on them because we know how hard it was last time.”
Sources involved in the process shared the feedback received from branches on the basis of anonymity. Negative attitudes to the Greens were more obvious in rural constituencies, but many of the other points were common to members in rural and urban branches.
While the sentiments were generally negative, it is unlikely that Fine Gael would vote against going into coalition if an agreement were struck. Unlike the other two parties where the membership will decide, Fine Gael will decide at a special delegate convention, where TDs and Senators will have 50 per cent of the voting weight.
The sources said the following comments and viewpoints received from members and branches were typical:
* Fine Gael has steered this country through an economic recovery and pandemic crisis, and the other two parties need to respect this and stop acting like they are doing a “deal with the devil”.
* Members can’t stand the Greens’ belief that Fine Gael is somehow right-wing or old-fashioned. There is huge sentiment that the Fine Gael party has done more in government to advance the social change in the last decade that any member of the Green Party ever has. They believe Fine Gael has rebalanced church and State, did equal marriage and repealed the Eighth Amendment.
* Fine Gael people cannot abide the Greens’ sudden claim that they are for change and Fine Gael is not. They did “damn all for anyone except themselves” when in government.
Almost every contribution expressed grave concern about the Greens and farming.
There was also serious concern from members about the Greens’ ability to stay the course in the hard times that are coming, with the comment that they had only two TDs with any experience and they won’t like having to cut a single payment or project – there will be plenty of that in the next government.
A very strong view is also emerging that Fianna Fáil made a terrible call in forcing the cancellation of the Leaving Certificate.