I've put a lid on dissent in Fianna Fail, says Martin ahead of party's ard fheis
FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he is confident he has managed to calm the dissent among TDs and senators as his party prepares for a crucial ard fheis this weekend.
Mr Martin insisted that his frontbench must now adopt a "unity of purpose" and a "sense of coherence" if the party is to be returned to government.
But the sustained criticism of Fianna Fáil's performance continued last night, after failed European election candidate Mary Fitzpatrick warned that the party faced decline unless it changed its electoral strategy.
"Fianna Fáil's senior strategists should stop being defensive, recognise its failures, and change its electoral strategy if it is to stave off long-term decline and avoid finding itself a small, niche, rural (predominantly male) party after the next General Election," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
The former Dublin City councillor, who intends to stand in the Dublin Central constituency, said it appeared the party had "missed opportunity after opportunity and recovery appears increasingly more elusive".
She said this is particularly evident in Dublin.
This weekend's ard fheis comes on the back of weeks of infighting within Fianna Fáil over the party's poor poll rating and at times clear lack of morale among members.
Both privately and publicly, TDs have expressed frustration at the party's performance and the manner in which Fianna Fáil is being run. Carlow/Kilkenny TD John McGuinness and Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív have been particularly vocal in their criticism.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Martin said he accepted all members of his party were entitled to express their views, but that a sense of discipline was also required.
"It's important people have their views and perspectives, but it's important unity of purpose and coherence are the watch words," Mr Martin said.
He said he had good relations with both deputies and that they accept the focus must now turn to the General Election.
"I've said to all of the party that essentially the whistle is blown, the election is on and we need unity of purpose, we need coherence and we need focus from now until the General Election. I think that's accepted across the board."
Mr Martin said he was standing by his declaration that he would not lead Fianna Fáil into a coalition with Sinn Féin or Fine Gael and accused Enda Kenny's party of lacking a social conscience.
"There are too many people being left behind by Fine Gael policy at the moment," he said.
On the issue of Sinn Féin, Mr Martin said the party acted like there is "one rule for them, another set of rules for everybody else".
He said this was illustrated by the IRA sex abuse scandal that has engulfed Gerry Adams's party. Mr Martin said that he was vilified by senior Sinn Féin figures, including Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty, two years ago when he said the republican movement was dealing with abuse cases and alleged crimes internally.
"Two years ago, when I raised this first, I was attacked by Mary Lou McDonald, I was attacked by Pearse Doherty. They've never apologised, they've never retracted anything they've said," he said. "I've been subsequently proven correct in relation to that. Gerry Adams himself admitted in the Dáil that they (republicans) had kangaroo courts."