Senior Fine Gael figures launch scathing attack on Taoiseach’s ‘appalling’ handling of pandemic
Fine Gael’s John Paul Phelan. Photo: Frank McGrath
February 24 2021 08:08 PM
Senior Fine Gael politicians have launched a scathing attack on Taoiseach Micheál Martin over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the first signs of cracks in the Coalition, Fine Gael party members criticised the Fianna Fáil leader and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s performance ahead of the publication of the Government’s new Covid-19 plan.
The Fine Gael parliamentary party also heard accusations of Fianna Fáil ministers throwing their coalition colleagues “under the bus” during televised interviews.
The tensions were sparked by a week of mixed messages and communication issues ahead of the launch of the ‘Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 – The Path Ahead’ plan.
- Coronavirus Ireland: 16 year-old among 56 latest Covid deaths as 574 cases confirmed
- Two arrested after beauty salon reopens for second day in a row
- Calls to introduce mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals into the country’s ports and airports
Former Fine Gael minister John Paul Phelan kicked off the backlash during the meeting by saying the Taoiseach’s performance had been “appalling” in recent weeks and said the party’s membership are “livid”.
Mr Phelan said Mr Martin’s speech on the steps of Government Buildings would have “landed well” if was not the “exact opposite” of what he had said in interviews last weekend.
He was referring to Mr Martin saying he expected lockdown to last until the end of April in an interview last week and in another saying he believed the hospitality industry would return by mid-summer. However, these dates were not included in the Government’s new plan for managing the coronavirus which was published on Tuesday.
Fine Gael leader of the Seanad Regina Doherty said Fianna Fáil had “destroyed” the good work her party did during the first wave of Covid-19. Without naming him, she accused Mr Donnelly of trying to throw Minister of State Josepha Madigan “under a bus”.
Ms Doherty was referring to Mr Donnelly’s interview on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live on Monday during which he said Ms Madigan’s comments about schools reopening next week may not have been correct. After the show, Mr Donnelly was forced to issues a statement on Twitter to say schools would open.
Ms Doherty also noted that Fianna Fáil insisted on the Strategic Communication Unit (SCU) being abolished during the last Dáil and said the communications had been abysmal since taking office. She added that Fine Gael risked “losing the trust of the people” if matters did not improve.
Former Justice Minister and current MEP Frances Fitzgerald criticised Taoiseach Micheál Martin for saying “nothing new” in his State address this week. She said the majority of the speech had been in the media a week earlier.
Former Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring said the Government’s performance over the last two weeks had been a “disgrace” and said they had lost the trust of the people.
Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said criticisms of government communication are valid.
A source at the meeting said Fine Gael members are concerned “the bad performance of Fianna Fáil ministers will rub off on them”.