Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators told to stop ‘cannibalising ourselves’ amid internal criticism of Micheál Martin
FIANNA Fáil TDs and Senators have been warned to stop “cannibalising ourselves” amid internal criticism of Micheál Martin.
In a show of support for the Taoiseach on Wednesday evening, several TDs and Senators rallied around Mr Martin and called for party unity. It comes after Éamon Ó Cuív became the first Fianna Fáil TD to publicly call for a change of leadership after the party hit a record low rating of 10pc in a weekend opinion poll.
Senators Lisa Chambers, Malcolm Byrne, Fiona O’Loughlin and Erin McGreehan, as well as TDs Cathal Crowe and Christopher O’Sullivan were among those to call for an end to the internal unrest. Some noted, however, that no Minister expressly backed Mr Martin at the meeting.
Ms O’Loughlin hit out at the negativity, warning the party was “cannibalising ourselves”. “We need to stand firm and stand strong and it’s distinctly unhelpful when we are trying to move forward and support the Taoiseach,” she told the meeting.
However, one of Mr Martin’s critics, Marc MacSharry, told colleagues that the Taoiseach had “misrepresented” remarks he made at last week’s meeting and that he had been forced to contact the acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn over the weekend to clarify matters. Mr MacSharry said that if people felt Fianna Fáil’s only problem was internal dissent they were “deluded”.
Mr Martin told the meeting he welcomes dissent and insisted that his door was always open, as he warned of the threats posed by Brexit and Covid-19 in the coming weeks.
Mr O’Sullivan said the negativity by a few in the party was getting “repetitive and boring”.
Mr Crowe said Fianna Fáil was good at scoring “own goals” and that critics within the party should “stop throwing grenades”.
Dublin North-West TD Paul McAuliffe asked for Mr Martin to be given space to get on with the job and Senator Ned O’Sullivan praised the Taoiseach for his leadership of the party.
Mr Byrne suggested that party chairman Brendan Smith hold a press conference after each party meeting to explain what was discussed in order to avoid damaging leaks.
“It was a predictable enough rally around the leader,” said one TD. Another deputy said the calls for unity were “remarkably similar”, while a third source at the meeting remarked: “Everybody came out fighting for him today”.
At last week’s meeting, Mr MacSharry said that regular briefings on Covid-19 figures should end because they are “scaring the bejesus” out of the public. At the meeting on Wednesday night, Mr MacSharry said that since last week the only person to speak about his contribution was the Taoiseach himself and that he had misrepresented the context of what he had said in relation to Covid-19 and the CMO. He said he had contacted Dr Glynn once he had heard the Taoiseach’s comments.
Mr Martin said last Friday at an event in Cork: “Where I would seriously disagree with Marc is his comments in relation to the CMO and that we should take him off the screens and somehow disappear him from public view, I think that was something I couldn’t quite comprehend because the Irish people want to hear from the CMO.”
Mr MacSharry said the parliamentary party meeting was the place for discussion and dissent and not just to “whisper them under the door of the leader.”
Earlier, Mr Martin briefed the party on the latest Brexit developments warning of the negative impact of a no-trade deal scenario and saying he hopes common sense will prevail.
He also spoke of the rising Covid-19 rates in Dublin saying the situation is “particularly serious” with increasing numbers of household clusters. Mr Martin also spoke of the economic implications of escalating to higher levels of the ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan.
He called the virus “cruel, dangerous and deadly” and said pressure must be maintained on the disease. Mr Martin outlined how the priority in the plan is to keep schools open and called for “unity of purpose”.
Junior Minister Seán Fleming was selected to lead a review of Fianna Fáil’s disastrous general election result.
TDs and Senators have been promised “substantive update” from a Minister every week and guest speakers every month at their parliamentary party meetings.
Amid growing unrest in Mr Martin’s party, a series of internal reforms were announced by Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers in an email circulated to TDs and Senators before the meeting.
Weekly meetings will work to a structured agenda and a different Minister will be selected to brief the party every week based on the priority issue of that week, the email said. Guest speakers will also be invited to speak to the parliamentary party on a specific theme or topic every four weeks.
New “thematic” policy groupings are also being established to include relevant members of Oireachtas committees and line Ministers from relevant government departments.
Each grouping is expected to meet every two to three weeks, map out a “strategic six-month plan for policy and communications” and will have a designated “rapporteur” to report back to the parliamentary party at meetings.
Another group, known as the “ministerial/parliamentary party coordination” group is being established and will include three parliamentarians, the chief whip and two ministers. It will meet every two weeks to discuss areas of concern, communications, policy development and the delivery of the programme for government.
The Taoiseach will also appoint a member of the parliamentary party to liaise with the party’s youth wing Ógra Fianna Fáil.
The email also promises to “strengthen the communications system and the structure of information flows”. It states that a member of the party’s press and research team will “triage” and regularly send updates to each member of the parliamentary party.