Taoiseach hears strong criticism but also applause at Fianna Fáil meeting

TDs and Senators asked to hand over phones before entering meeting room

  Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the Fianna Fáil  meeting last night, at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan, where he heard some strong criticism of his performance. Photograph: Conor McCabe/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the Fianna Fáil meeting last night, at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan, where he heard some strong criticism of his performance. Photograph: Conor McCabe/PA Wire

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The Taoiseach heard some strong criticism of his performance at a special meeting to discuss Fianna Fáil’s poor performance in the 2020 general election, but an anticipated showdown between Micheál Martin and his internal party critics did not materialise.

The meeting of the party’s TDs and Senators at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan heard criticism of Mr Martin’s leadership decisions – with one saying a change was not out of the question. However, most speakers focused more on the party’s need to renew its identity and show unity of purpose.

“The overarching message has been one of unity, of coming together to see what we can do to turn the ship around,” said one of those present.

The meeting began shortly after 3pm yesterday and by the time it broke for dinner at 7pm only eight of about 50 speakers had spoken. Those present expected it to last beyond midnight.

Lost purpose

In an unprecedented move, all TDs and Senators were asked to hand over their mobile phones before entering the room. This was to prevent leaks to the media, a regular occurrence from Fianna Fáil meetings.

The most stringent criticism had come from Offaly TD Barry Cowen who expressed the view that the party had lost purpose, as well as Sligo TD Marc MacSharry who was critical of the leadership.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath is said to have made a very strong speech defending Mr Martin and calling for unity.

The Dublin Bay South TD Jim O’Callaghan was scathing about what he characterised as over-centralisation of decision-making. According to colleagues, he complained a small handful of people decided policy.

Mr O’Callaghan said his area of expertise was law but he was not approached to contribute to the manifesto.

Sources in the room say there was applause for contributions in defence of the Taoiseach, as supporters sought to rally middle-ground TDs. Supporters of Mr Martin, who were on edge in recent days, seemed relieved at the progress of the meeting when it broke for dinner.

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