FF leader faces criticism from party TDs over speech on repealing Eighth Amendment

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin faced criticism from a number of his own TDs over his speech in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment last week.

At a private meeting of the parliamentary party at Leinster House, TDs made it clear to Mr Martin that a majority of them do not support his view.

Sources at the meeting, which lasted for more than two hours, said that while the mood was calm and respectful, Mr Martin was left in no doubt as to where the majority of the party stand.

The primary criticism, according to sources, was of a failure to warn members that he would express support for repealing the Eighth Amendment and for permitting legal abortions up to 12 weeks.

There was criticism of what some people called the “heavy-handed” approach taken by some frontbench members who sought to dissuade TDs and senators from attending a meeting on Tuesday night organised by Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward.

In total, more than 30 TDs and senators contributed to the meeting, with 70% speaking in favour of retaining the 1983 constitutional amendment which recognises the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn.

Several TDs said they were “very disappointed” with Mr Martin’s Dáil address but said that they ultimately respected it was his personal view.

Responding to the criticism, Mr Martin said it was never his intention to keep the parliamentary party in the dark.

He argued that a 20-minute speaking slot came available in the Dáil chamber and it would allow him set out his argument and the context of his argument without interruption.

“Micheál finished very strongly and said that the Dáil debate was the best place for him to outline his position and not get distracted. While there was some griping from the room, he dealt with it,” said one TD.

Mr Martin made it clear he had no intention of stopping anyone from speaking their mind and reminded everyone that a free vote will apply.

“He said he has no problem with people going on TV and radio and expressing their view, and, by and large, most people accepted that,” said a source.

During the meeting, several TDs and senators voiced concern as to the party’s treatment at the hands of the media, not just in light of the ongoing abortion debate.

At the end of the meeting, Mr Martin concluded by saying he was keen that no split occur and that differing opinions will be heard throughout the coming months.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, TDs and senators challenged Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy on the party’s work on affordable housing, which was announced earlier this week.

As Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe were absent as they are in Davos, TDs were said to be “a bit disinterested” in the agenda.

Mr Murphy told the meeting that the Government intends to increase the stock of social housing to 50,000 homes by 2021 under the Rebuilding Ireland programme.

Several TDs spoke of the importance of the National Planning Framework to the country and the work that has been put into it to date.

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