‘Leaking and sniping’ by Fianna Fáil TDs poses greatest threat to party – Martin

Taoiseach proposes ‘think-in’ meeting in September to discuss election performances

‘Negative comments are damaging our party and should cease,’ Taoiseach Micheál Martin tells the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

‘Negative comments are damaging our party and should cease,’ Taoiseach Micheál Martin tells the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the greatest threat to the future of Fianna Fáil is the constant “leaking and sniping” by its own TDs.

Mr Martin is said by colleagues to have spoken “passionately” in defending his role since the general election and in the Dublin Bay South byelection at a meeting of his parliamentary party on Wednesday night.

It came as the party discussed its dismal performance in the byelection where it secured 5 per cent of votes, a historic low for the party.

The meeting also heard that 18 months after the 2020 general election, the review of the party’s poor performance has now been completed.

The Taoiseach suggested the party hold a “think-in” type meeting on September 1st to discuss the review and also the result of the recent byelection.

He told Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators the party has a responsibility to the people and his focus as Taoiseach was on leading Ireland out of the pandemic, rebuilding the economy and supporting young people.

In a reference to the stream of negative comments and criticisms of his performance from some TDs since the Coalition was formed, he claimed that in itself was contributing to the party’s demise.

“The greatest threat to Fianna Fáil is ourselves,” he said adding that the “briefings, leaking and sniping” from TDs and Senators was counterproductive.

“Negative comments are damaging our party and should cease,” he said.

He defended the party’s record in Government saying Dublin Bay South was traditionally a difficult constituency for Fianna Fáil. He said that even in 2019 when the party was making gains elsewhere in Dublin in the local elections, it had seen no improvement in the constituency.

He also said that the two most recent face-to-face polls showed Fianna Fáil support at 20 per cent nationally, which is a marked improvement on earlier polls conducted since the Government was formed.

Unity

Addressing the divisions in the parliamentary party, Mr Martin pleaded for collegiality and unity of purpose.

“We are doing a lot of positive work with our Government colleagues and Fianna Fáil members across the country want us to continue to do this,” he said.

“We get the problem [portfolio] of housing and we are determined to make a difference by building more social and affordable houses for people.”

The review of the party’s general election performance was chaired by Sean Fleming and despite the long delay in it being published, it is understood to be hard hitting.

Fianna Fáil TDs in recent days have privately pointed to poor planning in the lead-up to the last general election as a factor in its poor performance, as well as a failure to realise the confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael was viewed by many voters as a de facto Coalition.

Other issues mentioned by TDs and Senators as negative factors for voters included the party’s stance on the pension age, an inadequate social media campaign which failed to connect with younger voters, as well as controversies in the year leading up to the election, including Vote Gate, where TDs voted on behalf of colleagues who were absent from the Dáil chamber.

The Offaly TD Barry Cowen, who at the weekend called for a special meeting to discuss the result of the Dublin Bay South byelection, welcomed the Taoiseach’s proposal for a physical parliamentary party meeting in September.

Mr Cowen cited the handling of student nurses pay and the Finance Bill as factors in the poor result in byelection.

He dismissed any suggestion that “sour grapes” on his part over his dismissal as Minister for Agriculture motivated him circulating a letter to all TDs and Senators, in which he expressed concern over the party’s byelection result.

Minister of State Anne Rabbitte also welcomed the plan for the September meeting and said the conversation about the 2020 general election was “long overdue”.

A number of Ministers have strongly supported the role played by Mr Martin. Colleagues said Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said he had experienced good times and bad in Fianna Fáil and remembered when the party had only one seat in Dublin. “We now have seven seats in Dublin and this is down to the work of the party leader, he said.