Fianna Fáil becoming ‘irrelevant and toxic’ to young people, TD tells party meeting

Nphet modelling did not include Niac advice on vaccines for young people, Donnelly says

James O’Connor is the youngest member of the Dáil. File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

James O’Connor is the youngest member of the Dáil. File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

 

Fianna Fáil TDs have accused the Government of disrespecting the hospitality industry and said the party is becoming “irrelevant and toxic” to younger people.

Sources at the weekly Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting said that Taoiseach Micheál Martin faced huge anger following the Government’s decision to delay the reopening of indoor hospitality. There was also strong resistance to the idea of vaccination certificates for those who want to go indoors for a meal or drink.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) modelling, which informed the Government decision, did not include changes made by the National Immunisation Advisory Council to allow younger people to be given AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines. He also told the meeting that “the biggest hurricane that has ever hit Ireland is coming”.

Earlier on Wednesday, the chief medical officer Tony Holohan also told opposition parties that the modelling used by Nphet on dramatic increases of case numbers and deaths from the Delta variant of Covid-19 did not take into account the Niac changes.

This is despite the fact that Cabinet sources said that Mr Martin told Ministers this week that it had been factored in.

A government spokesperson said: “As a practice we do not comment on Cabinet discussions, nor are we allowed to.

“However, there was a comprehensive memo by the Taoiseach’s department and a copy of the CMO’s letter to the Health Minister was circulated to each member of Cabinet.The memo and the letter was the basis for the decision.”

Young people

At the party meeting, TD Pat Casey criticised modelling from the Nphet and also hit out at the “tone” of the Government’s response. He asked the Taoiseach why people can eat indoors in a hotel if they stay but not otherwise, and asked for the medical data to back that up.

Mr Casey, a hotelier, is understood to have told the meeting: “yesterday I accepted that our Government doesn’t understand or respect our industry.”

Kildare South TD Fiona O Loughlin said the situation was handled wrong and asked the Government to consider the impact on young people.

Galway TD Ollie Crowe, who is a publican, pointed towards Northern Ireland and said they reopened for indoor dining when they reached 40 per cent of people fully vaccinated, which Ireland has now passed.

Cork East TD James O’Connor said that, as the youngest member of the parliamentary party, he found it harder to defend Fianna Fáil and the Government, warning that the party was becoming “irrelevant and toxic” to young people. It is understood he also called for antigen testing to be rolled out.

He also called for €150 to given to everyone born since 1996 if they are offered a Covid-19 vaccine to encourage them to take the vaccine.

Following the meeting, Mr O’Connor was absent from the Dáil chamber on Wednesday night for a vote on an amendment to the Land Development Agency Bill following a verbal confrontation at the parliamentary party meeting.

Sources said the Cork East Deputy was approached by a Minister of State after he made a contribution to the meeting that was highly critical of the party’s approach, claiming Fianna Fáíl had become toxic to young people.

The sources say the Minister of State harshly criticised him in a public verbal confrontation. Mr O’Connor was also criticised by several other TDs. Mr O’Connor then left the meeting and defied the Government whip by not being present for the vote.

It is understood that he let the party leadership know he would not be present for the vote.

It is also understood that no disciplinary action will be taken against him.

‘Tony Holohan bus’

Meanwhile, at the parliamentary party meeting, Senator Lisa Chambers is understood to have told the meeting that she could not square the circle of telling younger people that they could work in but not enjoy indoor spaces.

Limerick TD Willie O Dea said the proposal to use vaccine certs was “anathema” to him.

Sources said that Marc MacSharry also said he had no confidence in the Taoiseach’s ability to manage Covid-19 and described him as an expensive conduit between Nphet and Government.

He accused Mr Martin of being a “passenger on the Tony Holohan bus”, sources said.

In the face of mounting criticism from his party, Mr Martin defended the Government’s handling of the pandemic and said that his conscience is clear on the Government’s decision to temporarily delay indoor dining. He said that the easy thing would have been to reopen but told his TDs: “we took the tough decision”.

Mr Martin described the situation in relation to the Delta variant as a “slow burner” and said the prediction is that “we could see this go out of the control in August and September.”

He said the Government would have an open mind on how to reopen hospitality.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath also defended him and said the information from Nphet was stark but had to be taken seriously.

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