Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been urged to call an emergency national meeting to clarify the party’s future amid fears the confidence and supply deal is causing it to lose its identity.
Backbench TD and Oireachtas finance committee chairman John McGuinness demanded the move, despite senior colleagues insisting the potential move is not possible under the party’s own internal rules.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland programme after a weekend opinion poll saw Fianna Fáil slump to 21% public support, 13 percentage points behind Fine Gael, Carlow-Kilkenny TD Mr McGuinness said the confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael has handcuffed Fianna Fáil.
Citing the latest opinion poll, Mr McGuinness said there is no reason to suggest the deal remains in Fianna Fáil’s best interests.
Mr McGuinness said that, despite high-level TDs claiming otherwise, the majority of Fianna Fáil’s grassroots supporters are strongly opposed to any extension of the confidence and supply deal.
In a clear warning about the party’s future, he said an emergency national conference should be held by Fianna Fáil amid fears it is losing its identity as it is constantly being forced to facilitate Fine Gael policies — thereby allowing Sinn Féin to position itself in opposition.
“We have to have a conference of sorts on whether to continue that arrangement, and determine if the party membership is happy to continue for two years [as suggested by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week].
“My strong indication is that is not the case, and that there is a degree of frustration by members towards national politicians.
“We should have a conference and insist on the views of the membership being heard.”
Fianna Fáil communications spokesman Timmy Dooley and housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien both said there is no scope for a national conference on the party’s future to take place.
Mr Dooley told the Irish Examiner the Fianna Fáil rules are clear that emergency meetings can only occur if the party is going into government in order to allow grassroots members have a say on whether to accept coalition with other parties.
Mr O’Brien told RTÉ Radio’s Drivetime programme he is not in favour of holding an emergency meeting. He rejected Mr McGuinness’s claims that Fianna Fáil is facing outright revolt over its positioning in recent months.
Asked on Donegal radio station Highland FM last night about claims that the next general election may not take place until 2020, Mr Martin replied: “I am not getting into electoral timetables.”
Mr Martin did not address Mr McGuinness’s call for an emergency Fianna Fáil meeting to discuss the party’s future.
However, asked about a potential 2020 general election date after the plan was put forward by Mr Varadkar at a meeting between the two leaders last week, Mr Martin said: “My view is on issues. I am not getting into electoral timetables that might suit some politicians.
“My focus is on the issues, on delivery. It is the issues that affect people on the ground.
“Those issues will govern our focus towards the end of this year when the confidence and supply comes up for review and in terms of the budget coming up as well.”
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