Taoiseach says mood in Fianna Fáil has 'settled down' following unease

Micheál Martin acknowledged that there remains a difference of opinion within the party over some issues, but said he believes that “things have settled down considerably”.
Taoiseach says mood in Fianna Fáil has 'settled down' following unease

Mr Martin, who this summer said that he believed a think-in in Cavan had managed to unite his party over a common purpose and objective, stated that differences were “natural in politics”. Pic Gareth Caney/Collins Photos

The Taoiseach has said he believes the mood inside Fianna Fáil has “settled down”, following months of unease among some backbenchers about his performance as party leader.

Micheál Martin acknowledged that there remains a difference of opinion within the party over some issues, but said he believes that “things have settled down considerably”.

It comes amid months of reported concern within Fianna Fáil about the direction of the party and occasional public clashes between the Government and some backbench TDs.

“I have, since I became leader, facilitated a fairly free framework of people having opinions and having ideas,” he said.

“That has always been my style. I wouldn’t agree with everything that everyone says at any particular time.

“But I think there is a lot of work going on within the parliamentary party, and different members of the parliamentary party are focusing on different issues.

“I think it has settled down well. The first six months of Government were difficult with Covid-19.

“The restrictions, I thought, for the newer TDs and senators — it was a very strange beginning in politics where one couldn’t meet and engage.”

Mr Martin, who this summer said that he believed a think-in in Cavan had managed to unite his party over a common purpose and objective, stated that differences were “natural in politics”.

He suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic had been a cause of some of the unrest within the Fianna Fáil party.

In October, Cork East TD James O’Connor threatened to quit the party amid a row over the apparent exclusion of certain road projects in the National Development Plan.Picture Denis Minihane.
In October, Cork East TD James O’Connor threatened to quit the party amid a row over the apparent exclusion of certain road projects in the National Development Plan.Picture Denis Minihane.

In October, Cork East TD James O’Connor threatened to quit the party amid a row over the apparent exclusion of certain road projects in the National Development Plan.

The dispute was quickly resolved after he received renewed commitments that the Government would give its support for a bypass of Killeagh/Castlemartyr and an upgrade of the Fota Road to Cobh.

In an interview with The Echo this month, Mr O’Connor said that he was glad he stood his ground over the implementation of the projects in his constituency.

“Standing my ground in Cork East over the road projects has been very important,” he said.

“I think it was very clearly the case that the Department of Transport and the Transport Infrastructure Ireland had other priorities.

“I sought to rebalance some of those issues.

He also spoke of the “very strange” political atmosphere in the Dáil as a result of the pandemic.

“There is no buzz, in the traditional sense, given the circumstances we are facing,” said Mr O’Connor.

“It is not normal politics. It is very strange in Leinster House at the moment.”

He added: “We are dealing with a pandemic, and it is war time.

“There is no time for the niceties at the moment.”

Mr Martin also said that Covid-19 had created difficulties.

“I think, generally speaking, it was difficult because of Covid-19, for this particular Dáil and Seanad. I think things have settled down considerably.”

Mr Martin did not say whether he would ask Marc MacSharry, the Sligo-Leitrim TD who resigned from the parliamentary party in September, to rejoin the party.

Mr MacSharry had cited a series of recent controversies, including leaks from Cabinet meetings, Merriongate, and the appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone as a special envoy, as the reason for his resignation.

Mr Martin said: “Marc took his own decision, took it on his own initiative, and that remains the situation.”

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