Voters see Fianna Fáil as deeply divided, internal research shows

Parliamentary party seen as ‘in turmoil’ with ‘very damaging’ splits, private polling shows

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is under increased scrutiny following Fianna Fáil’s dismal showing in the Dublin Bay South byelection. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is under increased scrutiny following Fianna Fáil’s dismal showing in the Dublin Bay South byelection. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

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Private research into how the voters perceive Fianna Fáil shows the public believes it to be divided with “very damaging” splits in the parliamentary party, according to sources who have been briefed on its contents.

Polling and focus group research carried out in recent months has been presented to senior party figures, it is understood.

The Irish Times has established that the research findings show that divisions in the parliamentary party are affecting support for the party, with the public believing that it is not united, that its TDs are not focused on a positive agenda, and that it is in a state of “turmoil.”

“The stuff at the parliamentary party – it’s very damaging,” said a Minister who has been briefed on the material, referring to widely-leaked and sometimes fractious engagements at the weekly meeting of party TDs and senators. It is understood that the research suggests that Fianna Fáil is leaking support to Fine Gael as the party’s potential voters turn away from it.

It comes as Ministers hit back against internal critics of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who is under increased scrutiny following the party’s dismal showing in the Dublin Bay South byelection.

‘Navel gazing’

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue expressed ongoing confidence in Mr Martin, along with his other Cabinet colleagues in the party, and hit out against critics of the Taoiseach, saying they should “cop on”.

“It’s time that a minority in the party copped on and got with the programme,” he said. “A small minority are distracting from that work and are more interested in navel gazing than getting on with supporting the very hard and genuine work the party is doing in Government.”

Minister of State Mary Butler said internal criticism is “so unhelpful, the carry on of a small minority of members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party while we’re dealing with a possible fourth wave [of Covid] and trying to open up the country.”

Speaking privately, one senior Minister said that internal critics targeting Mr Martin in the wake of the Dublin Bay South result should deal with the issue “as opposed to trying to nationalise it and pour petrol on the fire”.

Ministers of State Niall Collins, Thomas Byrne and James Browne agreed Mr Martin should lead the party into the next election, and rejected the suggestion that he should step down as leader when the Taoiseach’s office rotates.

Anne Rabbitte and Seán Fleming did not respond to queries on Monday. Minister of State Robert Troy said Mr Martin had his “full confidence” as leader and Taoiseach.

Dublin Bay South byelection

Full results and analysis