Jim O’Callaghan: I would not sign motion of no confidence in Micheál Martin

Taoiseach receives public support from senior Fianna Fáil Ministers

Fianna Fáil director of elections for Dublin Bay South Jim O'Callaghan has said on Sunday he would not sign a motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Micheál Martin if approached to do so and added that he had not been asked.

His comments came as Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath - often named among the contenders to succeed Mr Martin as leader - called for people in Fianna Fáil to support the Taoiseach and show “unity of purpose”.

Asked on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics if she thinks there would be the 10 signatures required to trigger a leadership heave Minister for Education Norma Foley replied: “not at all.

However, Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry - one of Mr Martin’s most frequent critics within Fianna Fáil - posted a cryptic message online.

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”.

Mr O’Callaghan, the sitting Fianna Fáil TD in Dublin Bay South re-iterated his interest in the leadership of the party and said he did not think Mr Martin would be leading the party into a general election if the Government goes full-term until 2025.

He said he did not believe there was “something going on” to challenge Mr Martin now, but would not be drawn on whether he believed Mr Martin should go with the rotation of Taoiseach roles at the end of 2022.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme in the wake of the party’s disastrous byelection result, Mr O’Callaghan said he had not been approached about signing a motion of no confidence. The Sunday Independent reported that attempts were underway to get 10 signatures for a motion of no confidence in Mr Martin. Mr O’’Callaghan said he had not been approached and “I wouldn’t” when asked if he would sign such a motion.

‘Shockingly bad result’

Mr O’Callaghan, who described the byelection outcome with just 4.6 per cent of the vote as a “shockingly bad result” for Fianna Fail supported the call from party colleague Barry Cowen for an immediate meeting of the party to address the results of the general election in 2020.

“We’ve had a review into that and hasn’t been published yet. And really the question we need to ask and the party needs to reflect deeply is why are we not connecting with with the electors”, the majority of whom he said shared the party’s values.

Challenged about the duration of Mr Martin’s leadership of the party, he said “if the Government goes full-term we’re talking about 2025.

“Obviously I’m conscious that Micheál Martin doesn’t want to say anything that can undermine his current position, and I don’t want to contribute to that.

“But I would have thought it unlikely that in 2025 Micheál Martin will be leading Fianna Fáil into an election, that’s just my own view and I understand his reticence in saying that.”

Asked about his own leadership ambitions he said he answered questions when asked by journalists and when asked he said he was interested and is still interested in the leadership.

“I’m not going to rule myself out” he said “but I’m not going to do it just for the sake of trying to undermine the leader or give the impression to the media that there was something going on, and I don’t believe there is”.

‘Odds were always against us’

He said of the result in Dublin Bay South that “the odds were always against us” and the party is “obviously disappointed”.

In a series of Tweets, Mr McGrath said: “The voters have given us a message and we will learn from this. We are listening.

“There will be an opportunity for everyone in the party to have their say and give their views. That said, this is not a time for us to be talking about ourselves.”

He added: “I believe people are much more interested in the issues that matter to them in their day to day lives. We’ve the privilege of serving in government and the opportunity to deliver positive, lasting change. That is what we will ultimately be judged on.

“The challenges are immense including managing the Delta variant while safely reopening our economy.

“We’ve introduced radical and reforming measures to tackle the housing crisis & backed it up with the largest housing budget ever. Let’s give it a chance to work.”

He said there’s a “a once in a generation” opportunity to reform our health service and that Covid has underlined the need to do it and “we will”.

Mr McGrath also said: “We’re determined to tackle the climate challenge. We owe it to those who will come after us.”

In a message to people in his party he said: “For Fianna Fáil, all of this is an outstanding opportunity and a monumental challenge.

“To succeed, 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.”

Earlier, Ms Foley said there isn’t enough support for a heave against Mr Martin in the wake of Fianna Fáil’s disastrous result in in last week’s byelection.

‘Solution-focused leader’

She said she “absolutely” thinks Mr Martin can lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election as he said he intends to do arguing: “Micheál is a very experienced, solution-focused leader. We see the benefit of that in Government. We certainly see the benefit of that in Fianna Fáil also.”

On former minister for agriculture Barry Cowen’s call for a special meeting to discuss that result and the one in last year’s general election Ms Foley said: “after any election there’s going to be a post mortem.”

She said the election was “not a good day for Fianna Fáil” though she said there should be “perspective” and she pointed out that Dublin Bay South is not a “stronghold” for the party.

The Minister also said that byelections tend not to be “fertile ground” for Government parties.

Ms Foley said Fianna Fáil remains the largest party in the Government and local government. “There is a responsibility on all of us including the grassroot to get down to job of work that needs to be done in terms of party we are hugely committed in government and as a parliamentary party to doing the work that needs to be done addressing education and housing and cost of living.

“And it’s a shared responsibility for all of us.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times