Jim O'Callaghan open to FF leadership and calls for special party meeting

The Minister for Education said she “absolutely” thinks Mr Martin can lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election
Jim O'Callaghan open to FF leadership and calls for special party meeting

Updated at 15:36

Jim O’Callaghan has said he wants to be the next leader of Fianna Fáil and that the party should hold a special meeting to discuss the fallout of the disastrous Dublin Bay South by-election.

As the Irish Examiner reports, he said he is backing a call from Offaly TD Barry Cowen for the party to hold a special in-person meeting as soon as possible to discuss the “shockingly bad result” for Fianna Fáil.

“We can't just ignore the result, and we shouldn't shy away from the result,” he said.

“We need to have a meeting to address the results of the by-election and the general election in 2020, we've had a review into that, that hasn't been published yet.”

Regarding leadership of the party he said: “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.”

Mr O’Callaghan said he would not sign a motion of no confidence over the party leader. “The question we need to ask is ‘why are we not connecting with the electorate?'” he said.

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.”

Next general election

It comes as the Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly have stated their support for Taoiseach Micheál Martin, in the wake of Fianna Fáil’s disastrous result in the Dublin Bay South byelection.

Minister Foley said she “absolutely” thinks Mr Martin can lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election as he said he intends to do, and insisted there is not enough support within the party for a leadership heave.

The Sunday Independent reported today that attempts are being made within the party’s ranks to get the signatures of 10 TDs for a motion of no confidence in Mr Martin.

Ms Foley was asked on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics if she thinks there would be ten signatures for a leadership heave and replied: “not at all”.

However, she conceded there is a “job of work to be done”, after the party’s candidate, councillor Deirdre Conroy, received just 5 five per cent 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 per cent of first preference votes, and Sinn Féin 15 per cent.

Speculation over future

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.

Ms Foley said: “After any election there is going to be a postmortem and it was not a good day for Fianna Fáil. There is a job of work to be done.”

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

Despite some reports Mr Martin could step down as party leader following the conclusion of his term as Taoiseach in December 2022, he has stated his intention to lead his party into the next general election.

'Full confidence'

The Health Minister also threw his support behind the Taoiseach on Sunday.

Speaking on Newstalk radio, Stephen Donnelly said he had “full confidence” in Mr Martin as party leader, adding he believes “internal bickering” is bad for Fianna Fáil.

“I have full confidence in Micheál Martin and I think he’s doing a really good job in what is an incredibly difficult period for the country,” he said.

“The vaccination programme, I think it’s accepted, is probably one of the best in the world, we’ve got one of the lowest fatality rates in Europe from Covid.

“There’s a lot of other things going on in healthcare, there’s a lot of progression in the area of housing, in the area of education and in other areas as well.”

—Additional reporting by Press Association.

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