Mon, 05 Apr, 2021 – 06:30
A number of Fianna Fáil TDs are considering not running for election again as disastrous poll figures appear to suggest the party will lose a significant number of seats in any future elections.
Senior members of the party say morale in the organisation is at an all-time low after the latest opinion poll, which puts party support at 11% — and at just 7% for voters under 35.
The party’s longest-serving TD, Willie O’Dea, says the polls are having a huge impact on the party.
Impact on morale
“When I joined the party back in the dark ages, I never anticipated we’d be looking at 11% and it’s having a terribly bad impact on the morale of the organisation,” the Limerick City TD said.
At the party’s most recent parliamentary party meeting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told TDs the poll numbers “didn’t faze” him, but that sentiment is not shared throughout the party.
“It fazes me and those who canvass for me in Limerick,” Mr O’Dea said:
The identity is being lost. Fianna Fáil’s identity is disappearing. TDs always talk about polls — they pretend not to take notice and say it;s a snapshot, but politicians are obsessed with them.
Dublin South-West TD John Lahart also raised concerns during that parliamentary party meeting, telling colleagues there “needs to be a conversation” if Fianna Fáil doesn’t get a poll bump from the vaccine rollout.
“Surely there would be a bounce for the party if that happens successfully, it would lift everyone, and that if it didn’t happen, then we have to have a conversation,” he told the Irish Examiner when asked to clarify his comments.
Nothing political should disrupt or distract the rollout of the vaccines.
Mr Lahart also echoed Mr O’Dea’s remarks about morale, while Cork East TD James O’Connor, the youngest Fianna Fáil TD, said the poor ratings with young voters is a particular concern for him.
“It does worry me,” he said:
We have responded to the pandemic with the largest budget history of the state — €12bn in direct income supports — but to see us standing at that level is suboptimal, it’s worrying.
A number of elected representatives told the Irish Examiner there are concerns for the party’s future, with some TDs considering not running again.
Sources say a split has emerged within the parliamentary party, between those loyal to the Taoiseach, who predict a post-Covid-19 vaccine “bounce”, and those worried about the party’s fortunes.
While there has been no direct canvassing about a leadership heave, sources say there is much chatter behind the scenes about the direction the party is going in, and any potential leadership successors.