Dominic McGrath, PA
There will be no challenge to Micheál Martin’s leadership when Fianna Fáil meets in Co Cavan on Thursday, a junior minister has said.
Sean Fleming, the Fianna Fáil TD charged with authoring a report into the party’s electoral fortunes in recent years, said on Thursday that he did not see “any prospect” of a challenge to the Taoiseach when the parliamentary party meets for a think-in today.
Over 2,500 Fianna Fáil members contributed to the report, which recommends that the party needs to re-establish a distinct identity.
It comes amid reports that Mr Martin can expect strong criticism from some party members over the course of the next two days.
Mr Fleming acknowledged that the return of in-party meetings brought with it some “pent-up expectation”.
Asked on RTÉ radio whether the party would be discussing Mr Martin’s handling of the Katherine Zappone controversy and the prospect of Fianna Fáil TDs having to back Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in any potential no-confidence vote, Mr Fleming said such a situation was not up for discussion.
“None of that is on the agenda today and that’ll be a matter for the Dáil when it resumes next week,” he said.
Mr Fleming described his report as “clearly very open, very honest and constructive”.
He said his party wants “improve substantially in advance of the next election” and predicted a “long, open-ended discussion” during the think-in.
While Fianna Fail finished as the largest party after the 2020 election with 38 seats, Mr Martin has faced prolonged and sustained criticism after what many party members saw as a disappointing result.
That election came following an unprecedented confidence-and-supply arrangement between the party and the Fine Gael-led government.
That arrangement was also considered in the internal report, with Mr Fleming acknowledging that perhaps the party was damaged by propping up Leo Varadkar’s government for too long.
However, he rejected the idea that could be fully blamed on Mr Martin.
“We weren’t dragged in by the party leader,” he said.
Mr Fleming said that the report offered an opportunity for the party to “clarify” its identity, something he said was especially important for younger members.