SENIOR members of Fianna Fail in Co Donegal last night raised the possibility of a split in the party and the re-emergence of an independent faction.
The sources -- well-known members of the party -- claimed grassroots supporters were "fully behind" comments made yesterday by rebel Fianna Fail councillor and Mary Coughlan ally Brendan Byrne who called for party leader Micheal Martin to stand down.
Mr Byrne, the director of elections for the ex-Tanaiste, announced he was staying in the party, but then launched a withering attack on his party leader, accusing him of both failing the grassroots and of centralising party power.
Several senior party figures backed Mr Byrne's comments, but went further, with one telling the Irish Independent: "The mood is very bad amongst the grassroots of the party and some of us would be of the view that unless there is a radical improvement in the position of the party, the re-emergence of Independent Fianna Fail here is a serious possibility."
Independent Fianna Fail was founded after the 1969/70 arms crisis by Donegal TD Neil Blaney. It ceased to exist in 2006 when his nephew Niall Blaney joined the main party.
However, that decision was opposed by large numbers of the Blaney family, including Neil Blaney's widow and their seven children.
Another senior party member insisted: "He (Byrne) is speaking for the grassroots and there would be many from the Independent Fianna Fail tradition in the county who believe we should go our separate ways again. Micheal Martin is too close to the old leadership to have any credibility with the grassroots or the people of this country. That's the problem."
Asked if he had faith in Mr Martin, Mr Byrne said bluntly: "No. On a personal level Micheal Martin is a very nice person and an honourable politician. But Fianna Fail needs a strong leader to take it from where it is now -- at its lowest position ever -- to connecting with the electorate again.
"Over the weekend I received a call from the party leader and I used that opportunity to articulate the view that he needs to change; he needs to give stronger leadership, better direction to Fianna Fail -- either that or consider his position," said Mr Byrne.
He claimed grassroots members of the party now believe Fianna Fail has become too centralised, with decisions taken by a "very small few". This was, he insisted, against the ideals of the party.