Barry Cowen tables motion criticising Fianna Fáil in Government

Offaly TD says party is being sidelined by Sinn Féin and calls for leadership to name a date for Border poll

A senior Fianna Fáil backbencher has tabled a motion to an internal party meeting questioning the performance of the party in Government and saying it has been sidelined by Sinn Féin.

After a year of relative calm within the party, the motion proposed by Offaly TD Barry Cowen is being received within Fianna Fáil as a shot across the bows of the leadership.

The motion became the subject of intensive debate at the parliamentary party’s weekly meeting on Wednesday evening.

Mr Cowen’s motion referred specifically to the party’s poor levels of support in recent opinion polls, a delay in holding its ard fheis, as well as unrealised commitments made at the party’s think-in in Cavan last September.

He also claimed that Fianna Fáil was being sidelined by Sinn Féin on republicanism and specifically demanded that the party lay down a date for a Border poll.

He also called on the part to bring forward key policy decisions and hold an all-day policy workshop in Leinster House this month on a non-sitting day.

“We need to look at the aims and ambitions for Fianna Fáil as distinct from the two other Coalition parties: Fine Gael and the Green Party,” he said.

He said the party needed to put a particular emphasis on the economy; on the role for social partnership at this challenging juncture; on energy and food poverty; and on the opportunity of offshore wind.

Mr Cowen argued for a “new powerful authority” to drive energy policy with the regions where power is generated having “first call” on income.

He also called for the party to set a date for a Border poll. “Fianna Fáil is being sidelined in debates on republicanism and on housing; on health and children,” he said.

In his remarks to his party’s TDs and Senators, Mr Martin said that Ireland had experienced the highest level of foreign direct investment last year and was seeing continued levels of investment and jobs growth this year.

“There will be a challenging number of months ahead with the cost of living.,” he told colleagues. He added that €2.5 billion had been allocated to assist people and exploratory talks had been commenced with social partners in relation to pay issues.

“If we chase inflation it will get worse. We cannot exacerbate it in our decisions,” Mr Martin said.

He added Fianna Fáil wanted to make childcare affordable for working families, examine taxation proposals to help workers and also reduce healthcare costs.

Turing to Dublin Airport, the Taoiseach said the situation last Sunday was “completely unacceptable and we cannot have a repeat of last weekend”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told his Fine Gael party colleagues that the number of people working in the customer service hub of the passport office will be more than doubled within a fortnight.

He said the numbers would increase from 60 at present to 140 in two weeks’ time.

“A new agreement was struck earlier today with the Gardaí on witnessing first-time child applications. At present, circa 50 applications a day are stalled and need new consent forms because of the inability to contact the witnessing Garda around the country.

“From now on, a daily list will be transmitted between the passport office and Garda management of the circa 50 cases where contact hasn’t been made and the contact will then be initiated on the Garda side, meaning the application won’t be cancelled,” he informed his colleagues.

He said that the Passport Service was seeing record demand, beating the previous busiest year (2019) by almost 20 per cent. Over 560,000 passports have been issued to date in 2022. This is 90,000 more passports than were issued at this point of the year in 2019.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times