Marc MacSharry quits Fianna Fáil parliamentary party

Sligo-Leitrim TD votes no confidence in Simon Coveney and criticises how party is run

 Marc MacSharry  has written to party colleagues criticising how Fianna Fáil is being run and saying he has “no option but to resign the party whip”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Marc MacSharry has written to party colleagues criticising how Fianna Fáil is being run and saying he has “no option but to resign the party whip”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry has quit the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party after criticising how the party was being run ahead of the confidence motion tabled against Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney.

Mr MacSharry wrote to party colleagues saying he had “no option but to resign the party whip”.

He voted no confidence in Mr Coveney as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Dáil on Wednesday evening.

Mr MacSharry, the son of former minister Ray MacSharry, has been a long-time critic of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s leadership of Fianna Fáil.

In his communication to colleagues Marc MacSharry claims that Fianna Fáil’s “positioning and policy are being determined in a fashion consistent with an undemocratic totalitarian regime rather than that of a democratic socialist republican party of and for the people.”

He writes: “I therefore have no option but to resign the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party whip effective immediately and I will be voting no confidence in Minister Coveney this evening.”

While he is no longer a member of the parliamentary party, he remains a member of Fianna Fáil.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said he regretted the resignation but wished Mr MacSharry well.

Mishandling

Sinn Féin has tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Coveney’s handling of the appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone to a special envoy role, a job she later declined.

In his letter, Mr MacSharry says he had requested a parliamentary party meeting to consider how they should vote in the Dáil.

He writes: “Sadly, as has been the practice over the course of the last year, the party voting intentions have once again been dictated by Government without debate and without input from Fianna Fáil elected parliamentary members.”

He criticised what he claimed was the mishandling of issues such as leaks from Cabinet, the “Merriongate” controversy, and what he described as the “ongoing UN envoy debacle” and inconsistencies and contradictions in the interpretation of Covid-19 rules.

He claimed there was an “irreconcilable reality that the public are expected to accept that some people are expendable and others are not”.

Mr MacSharry also says: “I cannot stand over a situation where depending on the protagonists involved different rules apply.

“I was elected to serve a democratic republic not one which applies different rules and sanctions depending on the identity or position of the people involved.”

Mr MacSharry says he will continue to work with Oireachtas colleagues to pursue solutions to the crises in housing and health as well as the challenges that face the agriculture and enterprise sectors.

He says that “above all” he will continue to “provide effective representation for the people of Sligo, Leitrim, South Donegal and North Roscommon.”

Mr MacSharry adds: “I will work to the very best of my ability in line with Fianna Fáil traditions, its constitution, and values” which he claims “the current leadership regime have unilaterally chosen to completely depart”.

Rejected

A Fianna Fáil source rejected Mr MacSharry’s claim about the party operating in a “totalitarian” way pointing out that his resignation came less than a week after a “comprehensive” and “exhaustive” two-day parliamentary party meeting that allowed for “massive engagement”.

The meeting saw a review of the 2020 election and discussion on the future of the party with Mr Martin said to have been listening to the contributions from TDs and Senators until the end of both days of discussions.

There was said to be no time limits placed on contributors and no topic or grievance that could not be raised.

Mr Coveney has said he did not act arrogantly in handling the Zappone appointment “fiasco”, but that he was “embarrassed” by it and apologised for how it was handled.

He said he had seen no problem or controversy with the appointment until it emerged from Cabinet.

“This was using a process that many other countries are using to good effect and putting somebody who I felt was qualified for the job into that role. It was no more or less complicated than that.”

He said his failure to identify this as an issue did not mean he was arrogant. “There’s no arrogance whatsoever about an effort by me as the Minister for Foreign Affairs to try to put a special envoy in place to advocate for freedom of expression and LGBTQ rights internationally.”

Support

He told the Fine Gael party think-in in Co Meath that he “expects” to get support across Government when the confidence vote is taken, and that he had “reached out to people to give them reassurance in that regard”.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said the controversy was a “sorry episode” but it was time to move on, adding that party TDs would be expected to follow the whip.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald defended her party’s decision to put the matter to a vote of no confidence, hitting out at “crony politics” which she claimed has been a feature of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments for generations.

She said Sinn Féin was left with no option but to table the no-confidence motion as “the Taoiseach failed to do his job in failing to sanction his Minister”.

Labour leader Alan Kelly said there were “bigger issues” facing the Dáil than a vote of confidence in Mr Coveney, and he did not believe it was a priority. However, his party voted in favour of the Sinn Féin motion.