‘Irritation’ in Fine Gael over Seanad deal with Fianna Fáil

The Government’s chief whip has admitted there is “mild irritation” among Fine Gael back-benchers over the party’s Seanad appointments deal with Fianna Fáil.

‘Irritation’ in Fine Gael over Seanad deal with Fianna Fáil

Regina Doherty confirmed a number of TDs are frustrated by the news that Micheál Martin’s party chose three of the 11 new senators, amid fresh concerns over the Government’s stability.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme as the latest Red C opinion poll placed both parties on 26% of the national vote, Ms Doherty, the Government chief whip, sought to play down rumoured anger within Fine Gael.

However, she said several of the party’s TDs are unhappy at the Seanad deal, and the fact they were not made aware of its existence until the appointments were announced on Friday.

Asked about the situation yesterday, she said: “I don’t know whether fed up is the word, but it was news to us. Mild irritation is the best word for it.”

In a clear change in tradition, the 11 appointments last Friday included three — suicide prevention campaigner Joan Freeman, Alzherimer’s Ireland chief executive Colette Kelleher, and businessman Pádraig Ó Céidigh — made by Fianna Fáil leader Mr Martin.

The decision was made after a private conversation between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Martin last week, and was not part of the original talks on a government deal.

While a number of former Fine Gael ministers and TDs, including deputy leader James Reilly and Mr Kenny’s constituency running mate, Michelle Mulherin, were also appointed, the decision to allow Fianna Fáil to fill three of the roles has been seen as further proof of Mr Kenny’s precarious grip on power.

And further difficulties have been placed on the decisions, after it emerged one appointee — Billy Lawless — does not know who will pay for him to travel from Chicago to attend the Seanad.

Meanwhile, with the first divisions appearing in the new Government, the latest Red C opinion poll has placed Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil level on 26% support — a 1 percentage point (pp) drop for Fine Gael and 1pp rise for Fianna Fáil.

The poll, published by the Sunday Business Post, found the Independent Alliance is down 1pp to 4%.

On the opposition benches, Sinn Féin’s support remains static at 15%, Labour has risen 2pp to 6%, the AAA-PBP has increased by 1pp to 5% and the Social Democrats have fallen by 1pp to 4%.

The Green Party has also dropped 1pp to 2%, while Renua is down 1pp to just 1%.

With friction apparent in the Government, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said yesterday he believes a snap second election could be called before summer 2017.

At meetings in Dublin on Saturday, he told Labour councillors and unsuccessful election candidates to be prepared for a second election and predicted the Government will only last a matter of months.

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