Micheál Martin under pressure for postal vote on any FG deal
Three smaller parties convene meetings to discuss joint policy framework
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he didn’t think a postal vote would be ‘feasible at this stage’, adding that party rules say there should be an ardfheis. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is facing internal pressure from grassroots members of the party who say they should be given a vote on any potential coalition deal with Fine Gael.
Local members of the party have expressed concerns that they may be denied a vote in the process and say it would be “madness” not to hold a postal ballot.
Mr Martin on Thursday told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Seán O’Rourke that holding an ardfheis to ratify a coalition deal with Fine Gael could be difficult.
He also said he didn’t think a postal vote would be “feasible at this stage”, adding that party rules say there should be an ardfheis.
Party sources confirmed that the Fianna Fáil executive, comprising about 80 people, can make a decision on whether the party enters government with Fine Gael if a special ardfheis cannot be held. Such a move would be met with significant pushback by grassroots members, however.
Lifelong party member Willie Kavanagh, who is based in Wexford, said that “every paid up member of Fianna Fáil is entitled to have a vote”.
“Headquarters can just send a ballot to every member and it is a simple yes or no question. I don’t go along with the idea that it would be hard to have a postal ballot. Our membership is due at the end of June, and I’m sure they’ll find a way to remind us about that.
“I am not in favour of this coalition but I would abide by any majority decision,” he said.
“I favoured a national government that could stay in power for a period of two years. If we go into coalition with Fine Gael, it is the end of Fianna Fáil. Who will be in opposition, it will be Sinn Féin.”
He said that he believed Sinn Féin should be part of such a national government and said he believes “they have to take their share of responsibility. It is easy to make big noises when you’re in opposition”.
Mr Kavanagh said that he has fought in, and taken part in, many elections and in February voters were being told that Fianna Fáil would not do a deal with Fine Gael.
“We can change our mind on Fine Gael, so why can’t we change our mind on Sinn Féin?”
Fintan Cox, who is a Fianna Fáil member in a Leitrim cumann, said it would be “madness” not to hold a ballot of party members.
“What is the point of being a member if we can’t vote on something as important as this? If this goes wrong we could end up at 14 or 15 per cent in the polls while we let Sinn Féin take no responsibility. If Micheál had done a deal with Sinn Féin, he would be taoiseach by now. Now, Sinn Féin are off the hook and we are going to have a far-left radical government in five years.
“So there should be postal ballot, absolutely. This caretaker Government could go on for months. We just need to give a yes or no and return that. They did it in Labour and for the Seanad.”
He said he would have supported a national government of all parties followed by an election.
“Going in with Fine Gael is putting the whole party at risk,” Mr Cox added.
President of Ógra Fianna Fáil Tom Cahill said that a “number of Ógra units across the country have held their own votes on it, some as recently as last night, and so far all have voted to oppose. Our focus now is ensuring that a vote of the full membership takes place on any potential government deal that may be reached.
“We could still be a few weeks away from seeing a programme for government and it’s impossible to know what way restrictions will be at that stage. I think there will be logistical issues no matter what method is chosen.”
He said a postal vote is his preference if a special ardfheis is not an option. “When we get to that point, I do think it’s doable but it may need a bit of creativity.”
Meanwhile, the three smaller parties all held separate meetings on Friday to discuss the joint policy framework released this week by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Sources in the Green Party say there are major concerns emerging about the lack of costings and detail in the document. Party TDs are drafting questions to put to the two parties this weekend.
Concerns about the joint policy venture were also aired at a meeting of the Labour Party. Party TDs will further consider the document over the weekend before issuing a statement, but two sources said it is highly unlikely the Labour Party will feature in the next government.
Meanwhile, the Social Democrats have written to Leo Varadkar and Mr Martin seeking clarity on how much borrowing will be needed to fund the policy measures among other questions about costs.