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Saturday 23 March 2019

Micheal Martin rules out election in 2019 in light of Brexit

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (centre) speaks to the press during his party's annual conference at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (centre) speaks to the press during his party's annual conference at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: PA
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

FIANNA FÁIL leader Micheal Martin has ruled out an election in 2019, irrespective of any Brexit extension.

The Cork TD said it is a “no brainer” for the Confidence and Supply deal to be extended in light of Brexit. He insisted that delegates he had spoken to in the opening hours of the party’s Ard Fhéis in Dublin this morning had a “nuanced view” of the need to extend the deal.

Discontent in the party at the deal being continued has been flagged by a number of TDs and other members.

He said that any Brexit extension would likely only be until June or July and said he had committed to giving the Government space for 2019.

“The Irish political system - notwithstanding jibes and things like that - has stood the test in terms of understanding critical, almost existential threats to the nation and rising above party politics,” he said.

Mr Martin rejected a suggestion from the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that the party may not have extended the deal if they were further ahead in the polls as a “jibe”.

“The Taoiseach should focus on his job, he doesn’t need to be obsessed by Fianna Fáil,” he said.

He also hit out at the Taoiseach’s language about the rights of Irish people in Northern Ireland last year, when he said that Irish people in Northern Ireland would never be overlooked again.

He said that at the time he did not believe the language was “apt” and that it elevated the discussion to a Constitutional one for people in Northern Ireland.

“Some of that upped the ante in terms of the subsequent reactions to the declaration last December and the agreement. It elevated the whole debate to Constitutional issues,” he said.

The Ard Fhéis will focus on the upcoming local and European elections and  Mr Martin said the party plans to win a seat in Europe in each constituency, which he said will be “challenging”.

Some internal party politics were on display as delegates arrived at Citywest on Saturday morning with TD Billy Kelleher lining the avenue with posters promoting him as a European candidate, despite Mr Martin saying he did not want to lose him to Europe.

Mr Martin said he liked to see campaigning, adding that he could pick up some tips himself.

Fianna Fáil delegates have gathered today in Citywest Hotel for the 79th Ard Fheis, where Brexit and housing are due to dominate.

The Ard Fheis comes against a backdrop of discontent among grassroots members about the extension of the Confidence and Supply deal which is underpinning the Fine Gael government.

Morning sessions focused on crime and policing, as well as education and childcare, as well as on the scandal of the Children’s Hospital overspend.

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