The Irish Times view on Fianna Fáil tensions: Dissent from the sidelines

The outbreak of internal conflict is a threat to the authority of Micheál Martin

Fianna Fáil TDs Barry Cowen and John McGuinness, pictured with party colleague Bobby Aylward in 2015. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin.

Simmering tensions in Fianna Fáil could have implications for the future of the confidence-and-supply deal which underpins the Government.

Disagreements over the arrangement appear to have been at the heart of the bitter exchange at last week’s parliamentary party meeting involving John McGuinness, a critic of the arrangement, and the party’s spokesman on public expenditure, Barry Cowen.

Cowen suggested TDs who go against the party line in public should run as Independents.

McGuinness then went on radio to say rank-and-file party members were unhappy with the extension to the deal. Cowen’s criticisms were not just directed at McGuinness but at others who publicly voiced opinions contrary to party policy.


The party has high hopes of improving its representation in the European Parliament from its current solitary MEP

One of them was Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry, who has also criticised the extension of confidence and supply, and Laois TD Seán Fleming, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee and a less peripheral figure than McGuinness and MacSharry.

Fleming had backed Sinn Féin calls for Minister for Health Simon Harris to resign over the children's hospital controversy.

The row comes as Fianna Fáil faces crucial decisions about the candidates it will run in the European elections. A number of TDs, including enterprise and employment spokesman Billy Kelleher, have expressed an interest in running in defiance of party leader Micheál Martin.

The elections on May 23rd, which will be held in tandem with the local elections, are an opportunity for Fianna Fáil to recover more ground.

The party has high hopes of improving its representation in the European Parliament from its current solitary MEP to at least three and possibly four.

The local elections are a chance for the party to blood Dáil candidates and to hold on to its status as the biggest party in local government. The outbreak of internal conflict so close to those contests will not improve its chances.

More significantly it represents a threat to the authority of the leader. He will be hoping that the Fianna Fáil ardfheis next weekend will demonstrate that his strategy has the backing of the party’s rank and file.