PUBLIC Expenditure Minister and Cork TD Michael McGrath has called for party unity following Fianna Fáil’s disappointing showing in the Dublin Bay South by-election.
The result prompted speculation over Micheál 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 to discuss the results.
Asked if the Taoiseach should lead Fianna Fáil into the next election, were it to go ahead as planned in 2025, Mr O’Callaghan replied: “We’ll have to think about that.”
Mr O’Callaghan told RTÉ’s This Week programme that he would not sign a motion of no confidence in the party leader.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr McGrath said Mr Martin has the support of the “vast majority of TDs and senators within the party”.
“I think we need to show unity of purpose now as a party. We have a huge amount of work to do in Government,” he said. “The voters want to see us concentrating on that rather than getting involved in internal party squabbles.
“We all need to support the Taoiseach and support the team. I can’t speak for every individual, but the Taoiseach has the support of the vast majority of TDs and senators within the party.”
Mr McGrath acknowledged that the by-election result was disappointing but said the party will try to “learn lessons” from the outcome.
“There is no denying it was a very disappointing result for the party. I don’t think there is any single reason for that. Of course, we will examine the result and try to learn lessons from the message voters gave us in the by-election,” he said.
“Equally, it would be wrong to read too much into one by-election result where the odds were stacked against Fianna Fáil from the beginning.
“Deirdre Conroy did the very best that she could. There was no contest for the party nomination,” he said.
Mr McGrath said he believes the Government needs to focus on the task at hand.
“We are trying to lead the country through a global pandemic. We have enormous challenges in housing, bringing about economic recovery, and reforming our public health service. I think all of us need to concentrate on these matters. We will be doing our business and doing it to the best of our ability.”
Pressed on what Fianna Fáil needs to do to recapture the support of the Irish public, Mr McGrath said the party has to ‘deliver’.
“I think we have to deliver in Government. We have a fantastic opportunity to make a difference in housing. We have provided the largest budget ever. We have a range of new schemes that have been approved and put into law. We have to make them happen on the ground, where people can see a difference in their own local community,” he said.
“We need to make a difference on the issues that really matter to people. If we focus on that then people will give us a fair hearing at the next election,” he added.
On Friday, Mr Martin rejected suggestions that his leadership was under threat.
When asked if he envisaged any leadership issues arising from the performance of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the Dublin Bay South by- election, the Taoiseach said “not at all”.
He answered “absolutely” when asked if he was confident of his position as leader of the country.