Fianna Fail TDs and senators have come together to take action about disaffection with the party leader, Micheal Martin, it has been learned.
The dissatisfaction has crystallised around a potential leadership challenge before the next General Election by finance spokesman Michael McGrath.
A number of Fianna Fail front-bench spokesmen last week told the Sunday Independent that they had serious misgivings about the continued leadership of Mr Martin into the election.
One TD said: "I am absolutely of the view that no member of the government that allowed the Troika in here should ever be in government again... Nobody from that last Fianna Fail government should ever be in government again."
Another said: "People are unhappy at the way the leader has gathered a cohort of people around him . . . The problem is the party is being run by a small clique, which is very foolish of the leader."
In contrast to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who recently showed authority to force through the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill with the loss of just seven Fine Gael TDs and senators, more than three-quarters of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party failed to support Mr Martin.
In Fianna Fail, just 13 of 19 TDs supported Mr Martin in favour of the bill, an outcome which gave rise to speculation that political calculation and not just conscience played a significant part in the decision.
Mr Martin, who has been leader since January 2011, is credited with rebuilding Fianna Fail support from a rock-bottom 17.45 per cent in the last election to 29 per cent in the most recent Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll in July.
In that poll, satisfaction with his leadership dropped further, with 56 per cent dissatisfied with him, compared with 47 per cent in early May.
A front-bench TD said last week: "The Anglo Tapes showed me our support is very soft, no matter what the opinion polls say. After the Anglo Tapes, we went down three or four per cent in the polls again – immediately.
"That's the problem, that's what Micheal Martin reminds the Irish people of."
A spokesman for Mr Martin was unavailable yesterday to respond to what are anonymous comments by several of his front-bench spokesmen. However, it is understood he is aware of a significant level of discontent with his leadership.
Parliamentary party support for Mr Martin remains solid, and he would be expected to win a leadership contest should it come before the local elections next year.
At the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis this year, Mr Martin announced his intention to open a "consultation process" on the election of a future Fianna Fail leader – a process that may now be hastened.
His preferred method is an electoral college model, which would see elected TDs and senators continue to have a central role in the process, but which would involve all other units of the party, with different blocks each having a different weight of votes.
Mr McGrath has emerged as the preferred candidate to replace Mr Martin, however sources close to Mr McGrath have indicated that he remains "completely focused" on his current position.
Sources close to Mr Martin have also indicated that the Fianna Fail leader is intent on "getting on with the job" of leading the party into the next election.
One source said: "When Enda Kenny saw off Richard Bruton for the leadership of Fine Gael, it was the makings of him."
Analysis, PAGES 6 & 22