‘Sickening’ negativity within Fianna Fáil must stop, party meeting hears

Government Chief Whip’s report proposes giving backbench TDs more access to Ministers

Senator Lisa Chambers was among those who rowed in to offer strong support to the Taoiseach during the virtual meeting. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Senator Lisa Chambers was among those who rowed in to offer strong support to the Taoiseach during the virtual meeting. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

There was a backlash from some new Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators at the party’s weekly meeting against prominent backbenchers who have vigorously criticised Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil’s performance in Government.

A number of newly-elected members berated the constant negative headlines and reports that have emerged from their parliamentary party meetings since Fianna Fáil entered government.

During the course of a two-and-a-half hour virtual meeting – Cork South West TD Christy O’Sullivan said the negativity in the party was “sickening” and more positivity was urgently needed.

Cathal Crowe, from Clare, said some members were using the parliamentary party meeting to settle scores.

Another new TD, Paul McAuliffe from Dublin North West, said the criticism had to stop and the Government and new TDs now needed space to get on with the job of government.

Senator Erin McGreehan from Louth criticised what she characterised as fake anger and negative headlines generated from the weekly meetings.

Two other Senators, Lisa Chambers and Ned O’Sullivan, rowed in to offer strong support to Mr Martin. Mr O’Sullivan said party people needed to “row in behind the leader and show patriotism, unity and loyalty”.

The series of contributions supporting Mr Martin was co-ordinated and designed to show the majority of the parliamentary party were still strongly backing his leadership.

In a meeting that was said to be otherwise muted, his most prominent critics did not refer to his leadership. There was little discussion about a weekend opinion poll in which the party did badly, or the controversy about confusion resulting from the communication of the Government’s Covid-19 plan.

Eamon O Cuív, who this week said Mr Martin should be replaced as leader, raised the issue of school transport. Another critic of Mr Martin’s style of leadership, Marc MacSharry, asked questions about the Leaving Certificate results.

The meeting discussed a report prepared by Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers, aimed at improving relations between backbenchers and Ministers, as well as giving TDs an input into party policy.

“It was positive but there were long discussions on policy issues,” said one member of the parliamentary party.

Mr Chambers’s document has envisaged highly-structured weekly parliamentary party meetings with a guest speaker every four weeks.

It also provided for new policy groupings which will track Government departments and give backbench TDs access to the relevant Ministers. They will also have an input in policy.