THE Taoiseach has vowed to lead his party into the next general election, due to be held before February 2025.
Micheál Martin was asked about suggestions that a large number of party TDs and senators had met deliberately behind his back while he was in the Ukraine, but Mr Martin affected to be unconcerned.
In response, to an Independent.ie question as to his continuing political career, after 11 years as leader, and whether he would lead Fianna Fáil into the next election, he said: “Yes, and I’ve said that consistently.”
Mr Martin, who turns 62 at the beginning of next month, said he regularly engaged with his party members and heard their ideas about policy. A lot of structures and methods had already been created to deal with their concerns, he added.
The breakaway group of 30 Fianna Fáil backbench TDs and senators held a meeting to discuss the future of the party on Wednesday evening.
The group met in private in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting room while Taoiseach Micheál Martin was in Ukraine.
The meeting was held at a time of high political drama as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was besieged by a wave of resignations, while in Leinster House Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh voted against his own Government
The almost two-hour Fianna Fáil gathering heard suggestions from senior party figures on how to revive Fianna Fáil’s support ahead of the next election.
Among the suggestions was a proposal from Jim O’Callaghan to hold a referendum on the Special Criminal Court.
The move would be aimed at getting public support for non-jury courts while also embarrassing Sinn Féin, who are opposed to the courts.
There were also calls for Fianna Fáil to introduce universal childcare or put the proposal into their next election manifesto.
Party rebels pointed out a number of TDs and senators who would be seen as loyal to the Taoiseach attended the meeting.
Fianna Fáil office holders were not invited to the meeting.
“Everyone there was worried about where we are as party and the view is ministers are too busy with their portfolios and don’t realise how bad it is on the ground,” a TD said.
“The reality is we have a leader who is doing well but has no interest in the party or the party’s fortune. He won’t stand in the next election and is relying on going to Phoenix Park [as President] and doesn’t give two f***s how Fianna Fáil do in the next election,” the TD added.
Another TD insisted the group was not set up to attack Mr Martin but rather find a way for Fianna Fáil to “survive the next election”.
“No one wants to go into an election to lose. We all want to be successful and we need to do what can to achieve that,” the TD said.
Long-serving Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív told the meeting the next election will be about change and said the party needed to give voters an alternative option to the other parties.
The meeting was also attended by TDs Cathal Crowe, Joe O’Flaherty, Niamh Smyth, Barry Cowen, James O’Connor, John Lahart, Paudi O’Sullivan, Jackie Cahill and Jennifer Murrane O’Connor. Senators Lisa Chambers, Lorraine Clifford Lee, Catherine Ardagh, Mary Fitzpatrick and Pat Casey, among others, were also in attendance.
Organisers said the meeting was not secret and noted that TD Paul McAuliffe tweeted about the gathering after it happened.
“A positive meeting today of FF backbench TDs and senators to discuss party and policy issues,” he said.
“The group aims to complement the party’s role in government and to strengthen the identity of Fianna Fáil. Members have agreed to meet again,” he added.
This article was updated on July 7, 2022, to correct the spelling of some names.