Fianna Fáil TDs urged to back Martin after disastrous byelection

TDs cast doubt on whether Micheál Martin will lead party into next general election

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is ‘unlikely’ to lead Fianna Fáil into the next election, according to the party’s byelection director of elections Jim O’Callaghan. Photograph: The Irish Times

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is ‘unlikely’ to lead Fianna Fáil into the next election, according to the party’s byelection director of elections Jim O’Callaghan. Photograph: The Irish Times

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Fianna Fáil Ministers have urged party members to support the Taoiseach amid renewed rumblings about Micheál Martin’s continued leadership of the party in the wake of its disastrous byelection result.

Michael McGrath, Norma Foley and Thomas Byrne lined up to back Mr Martin as a growing number of voices from its ranks of TDs cast doubt on whether he will lead the party into the next general election as he said he intends to do.

The Dublin Bay South byelection saw the party’s candidate, Cllr Deirdre Conroy, get less than 5 per cent of the vote.

It prompted former minister for agriculture Barry Cowen to contact party colleagues calling for a special meeting to consider what he described as an “alarming” result that “cannot simply be brushed aside, ignored or not examined”.

He did not mention the issue of Mr Martin’s leadership in his email to TDs but his call for a special meeting is expected to be considered at this week’s parliamentary party meeting – likely to be a stormy affair dominated by the fallout from the byelection.

Imminent move

The Irish Times understands that recent weeks has seen chatter within Fianna Fáil about a potential motion of no confidence in Mr Martin.

However, several party sources played down the prospects of an imminent move against Mr Martin though some suggested this could come after the meeting called for by Mr Cowen.

Others said their view is that the natural time for Mr Martin’s departure as leader would be when he is due to switch roles with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at the end of next year.

Minister for Public Expenditure Mr McGrath intervened on Sunday afternoon to call for people in Fianna Fáil to support the Taoiseach.

He took to Twitter to say “this is not a time for us to be talking about ourselves”. He told fellow Fianna Fáil members: “We need to support our Taoiseach, our team, work together, have unity of purpose and show the public that their concerns are our priorities at all times.”

Ms Foley, the Minister for Education, insisted there isn’t enough support in the party for a heave against Mr Martin and told RTÉ she “absolutely” thinks he can lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election.

Minister of State for European Affairs Mr Byrne has called for the parliamentary party to back Mr Martin.

Main contender

He told The Irish Times “at the moment the Government has so much to do, continue get the vaccine out at almost world beating pace and get the housing programme up and running. That’s the big job at the moment”.

The party’s byelection director of elections Jim O’Callaghan, seen by some as the main contender to succeed Mr Martin, said he thinks it’s “unlikely” the Taoiseach will lead Fianna Fáil into the next election.

However, while reiterating his interest in becoming leader in the future he said he would not sign a motion of no confidence in Mr Martin if he was approached to do so.

Other TDs who this weekend publicly expressed doubt that Mr Martin will still be leader going into the next election were Clare’s Cathal Crowe and James Lawless of Kildare North, while several more agreed with this assessment while speaking anonymously.

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