Growing number of FF TDs say Taoiseach will not be leader at general election

Discontented rule out any imminent move against Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. It was reported on Sunday that attempts are being made to get the signatures of 10 TDs for a motion of no confidence. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. It was reported on Sunday that attempts are being made to get the signatures of 10 TDs for a motion of no confidence. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

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A growing number of Fianna Fáil TDs believe Taoiseach Micheál Martin will not lead the party into the next general election but have downplayed prospects of any move against him in the near future.

Fianna Fáil director of elections for the Dublin Bay South byelection Jim O’Callaghan said he would not sign any motion of no confidence in Mr Martin if approached to so.

It was reported on Sunday that attempts are being made to get the signatures of 10 TDs for a motion of no confidence but The Irish Times understands that while there have been rumblings of such a motion among some TDs it is unclear how imminent any such move would be.

Dublin South-West TD John Lahart dismissed suggestions that there will be a motion of no confidence in Mr Martin this week, saying: “It won’t happen.”

Laois-Offaly TD Barry Cowen’s call at the weekend for a special meeting to consider the election results is expected to be considered at Wednesday’s parliamentary party meeting and a date is likely “in the not too distant future”.

In the wake of the party’s disastrous performance in the byelection won by Labour’s Ivana Bacik, Mr O’Callaghan said he did not think Mr Martin would be leading the party into a general election if the Government goes full term until 2025 but he would not be drawn on whether he should go when the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are due to switch roles at the end of 2022.

Some TDs contacted by The Irish Times suggested that the in-person meeting called for by Mr Cowen could be the starting point of such a review but others believe 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.

Kildare North TD James Lawless said it would “make a lot of sense” to plan for a transition then.

He said Mr Martin is leading the country through Covid as well as dealing with the fallout from Brexit and should remain on as leader until then.

Clare TD Cathal Crowe also said Mr Martin is doing a good job as leader during Covid but said his “honest belief” is that Fianna Fáil will have a new leader by the next general election.

Cryptic message

On Sunday Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry – one of Mr Martin’s most frequent critics – posted a cryptic message on Twitter.

It included an image of a chick and an egg with the words: “If an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends, if broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from the inside.”

He later told The Irish Times he would sign a motion of no confidence in Mr Martin if one is circulated and hoped others would in sufficient numbers as well.

Dublin North-West TD Paul McAuliffe said, however: “The argument that we change tack now having made a decision12 months ago [to go into Government] I don’t think makes sense. We looked for the job, we got the job and we’ve to get on with delivering the job.”

He agreed with Mr Cowen’s call for a postmortem on the election and his call for unity in the party “and I don’t think either of those things are anti-Micheál either”.

He said the new TDs would go into the next term determined to be more vocal “as a reaction to the weekly negativity” at the parliamentary party that dominates media coverage.

Cavan-Monaghan TD Niamh Smyth said: “I don’t think it’s about Micheál, because the polls would tell us. Satisfaction with Micheál as Taoiseach and leader is good, but there is a disconnect.”

She added that he had been leader for 10 years and there was a need for an honest conversation but the online weekly parliamentary party meeting had “become public meetings and that is definitely a problem” for how the public perceive those meetings.

“It’s difficult to have a more honest conversation we need to have in a calm way without being totally aggressive and pulling ourselves apart as a party.”

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