Minister says Martin should lead FF into next general election despite party by-election result

Minister says Martin should lead FF into next general election despite party by-election result

On Friday, Mr Martin rejected suggestions that his leadership is under threat. Picture Denis Minihane.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin should lead Fianna Fail into the next general election despite the party’s disastrous result in the Dublin Bay South by-election, a Government minister has said.

But Education Minister Norma Foley conceded there is a “job of work to be done”, after the party received just 5% of the share of first preference votes.

Labour Party candidate Ivana Bacik was elected on the ninth count at the by-election on Friday, while Fine Gael received 26% of first preference votes, and Sinn Fein 15%.

Doubts cast 

The result has prompted speculation over Mr Martin’s future, with TD Jim O’Callaghan casting doubt on his leadership and former agriculture minister Barry Cowen requesting a special meeting of the parliamentary party.

Appearing on RTÉ’s The Week In Politics, Ms Foley said: “After any election there is going to be a post-mortem and it was not a good day for Fianna Fail. There is a job of work to be done.” Ms Foley was asked if she thinks there are 10 TDs in the party who would sign a motion against Mr Martin.

She responded: “No, not at all. This has not been a good result for Fianna Fail but there is a responsibility on all of us within the party to get down to the job of work which needs to be done.” 

Asked if Mr Martin could lead the party into the next general election, she said: “Absolutely. Micheal is a very experienced, solution-focused leader. We see the benefit of that in Government, we also see the benefit of that in Fianna Fail.” 

The result brings the Labour Party’s strength in the Dail to seven.

Party chief whip Duncan Smith told the programme: “Politics is a results-based game. It was such a positive campaign, we were in a good position going in and Ivana was an amazing candidate.

“A number of years ago maybe the Labour Party might have sunk her, I think it’s important to note that the Labour brand did not damage the campaign, the Labour brand is coming back.” 

Mr Duncan said gender was a major factor in the result.

“There is a genuine desire to see more gender-balance across the Dail, across the Seanad, across the county councils.” 

O'Callaghan interested in leading party

Meanwhile Mr O’Callaghan, Fianna Fail’s director of elections, told RTÉ’s This Week programme that he would not sign a motion of no confidence in the party leader.

He said: “The question we need to ask is ‘why are we not connecting with the electorate’?” Asked if he had been approached by anyone to sign a motion of no-confidence, he said: “That hasn’t happened and I wouldn’t.” 

Mr O’Callaghan said he is interested in leading the party, but would not do anything to undermine Mr Martin.

“I believe it’s an honour and a privilege (to lead the party), but I’m not going to do anything just to undermine the leader or give the media an impression that there’s something going on when I don’t think there is,” he said.

Taoiseach confident in position 

On Friday, Mr Martin rejected suggestions that his leadership is under threat.

He said: “Governments rarely win in by-elections. They are not markers in terms of what happens at the next general election.

“This constituency is not our strongest constituency, it never has been.

“The Government is now going to focus at the issues at hand, dealing with Covid and making sure we can facilitate the recovery of our economy and jobs and prioritising housing and healthcare.

“We are busy getting substantial work through the Dail.”

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