Minister denies delay to Fianna Fáil’s election postmortem is ‘kicking can down the road’

Special meeting scheduled for September 1st will now be part of party’s think-in on September 9th

Minister of State Thomas Byrne has denied that delaying Fianna Fáil's postmortem of its poor election results by a week is "kicking the can down the road".

Mr Byrne was speaking in the wake of unrest among backbenchers and an MEP that a special meeting scheduled for September 1st will now be included as part of Fianna Fáil’s pre-Dáil think-in on September 9th.

Party chairman Brendan Smith and chief whip Jack Chambers wrote to TDs and Senators last Friday informing them of the postponement.

The delay was put down to the Government’s plan to unveil its roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions as well as the Housing for All plan next week.

Former minister for agriculture Barry Cowen – who originally requested the meeting to discuss the party's general election and Dublin Bay South election results – has criticised the delay in an email in recent days.

He said “it would be both disappointing and even disingenuous” to have the discussion take place “as an item between coffee and lunch breaks at an upcoming ‘think-in’ gathering”.

After it was confirmed that September 9th would be devoted to discussing Fianna Fáil issues Mr Cowen said in a further email that there has been no confirmation that TDs will be given a copy of a report by Minister of State Seán Fleming into Fianna Fáil's 2020 election performance.

He added: “very disappointing the manner in which information pertaining to this meeting has to be dragged out bit by bit”.

Ireland South MEP Billy Kelleher separately called on the party to reverse its decision to postpone the meeting saying neither he nor Dublin MEP Barry Andrews received last Friday's communication from the party.

Mr Kelleher said he has kept his diary free for the first week of September but would be unable to attend the event the following week as he had to attend a Renew Europe Group event in Paris and was speaking at an ECON conference in Slovenia.

Mr Kelleher later said he was “very disappointed” with the decision.

Mr Byrne defended the decision to delay the meeting during an interview with LMFM radio this morning, however, saying the invitation that went out is “not kicking the can down the road”.

He said the unveiling of the updated roadmap on Covid-19 will be taking place next week as will the unveiling of the Housing for All plan which he said is a “national priority”.

“It’s not possible to have the meeting that week, and we’re going to have the meeting the following week, so I think that’s reasonable.”

Asked about Barry Cowen’s concern at the inclusion of the discussion as part of Fianna Fáil’s think-in, Mr Byrne said September 9th is to be used to discuss Fianna Fáil party issues and September 10th would be for “normal think-in issues”.

He said: “I don’t really understand what the difficulty is there. The meeting has been agreed. The party wants to hold the meeting. We’re going to hold the meeting. It’s going to be on the 9th of September instead of on the 1st of September, and I think the chief whip has given reasonable answers as to why this is going to be delayed by a week.”

Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuív was another TD who raised concern in recent days that that the think-in would be used for the discussion on election results.

However, he told the Irish Times today: “I am happy with the alternative arrangements” while adding: “I can understand the change in the date has proven a difficulty for some colleagues.”