A group of over 50 councillors have launched a campaign to “defeat” the newly agreed programme for government.
In a statement, the group calling themselves ‘Fairer Future’ insisted the agreement will not deliver change.
The councillors from Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Leitrim, Louth, Meath, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford said the document “confirmed their fears” that he new government will be a “continuation of status quo politics”.
In a statement, Cork County Councillor Deidre Kelly said: “We know that at our best Fianna Fáil can transform communities and the country in the interests of working people.”
“After nine years of Fine Gael rule Ireland needs real change. This programme for government will not deliver change. It will do nothing to address the quality of life issues facing so many people in Ireland. We’ve seen the reality of Fine Gael in Government and we don’t believe Fianna Fáil should sign up to a deal that means a continuation of the status quo on housing and rural life. This is not what people voted for,” she added.
Roscommon County Councillor Orla Leyden said the programme for government was “just a series of reheated policies” and added that “the future of our movement is at stake”.
“So too are our values of equality of opportunity, good housing, protecting the vulnerable and the prioritisation of education. These issues, and so many more, are on the ballot paper. We know that this is a difficult decision for members across the country. It was only after much thought and discussion that I have decided to urge you, our fellow party members, to Vote NO and reject this deal,” she added.
The campaign was launched shortly before Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party gave the nod this evening to the proposed programme for Government.
After a meeting that lasted three hours, party leader Micheal Martin said the deal will now be put to the party’s members in a postal vote in the coming days.
He described the meeting as “very constructive” in which speakers discussed key issues they want to see addressed by the next Government, including dealing with the ongoing housing crisis, as well as what he described as “a very strong endorsement” of proposals to increase the number of cycling and walking routes nationwide.
He said there was also “a strong emphasis” on the need for Government to support small and medium businesses – in a new job initiative next month, especially those in the hospitality and retail sectors – that have been hard hit by the pandemic.
“Overall it was a very constructive meeting with a very strong endorsement of the programme for Government,” he told reporters.
Asked about a coalition of party councillors who want to see the deal scrapped, he said that finding universal acceptance is a “challenge in any party”.
But he said now is not the time for division, although he conceded there were some voters from the party last night who were opposed to the deal.
However, he said “I think the vast majority will be asking their party members in their constituencies to support it.”
“We are in a very surreal situation with Covid-19 and our focus is the job at hand,” he said of forming the next Government.
“In the aftermath of the General Election there is an onus to set up a government to deliver meaningful change,” he said.
Meanwhile, Laois Offaly TD Barry Cowen said he is also reasonably optimistic the party will support the deal.
“It’s a huge undertaking on the part of the three parties to come together, but in the main it suits the country and the space the country is in presently,” he said.
He said the immediate priority is to address the ongoing issues over the Covid-19 crisis and the economic impact it will have on the country.
But overall, he believes the party will support the deal, he said.
“We’d like to think we’ve responded positively,” he said.
Finance Minister Michael McGrath was also upbeat as he headed to the meeting.
“This is an important step. Every member of the parliamentary party and party has a very important role to play in the next week, so it’s an exciting time and I very much look forward to an exciting debate.”
Asked about Mr Martin’s prospect as Taoiseach, he said: “I have full faith in his ability in what will be a very challenging time.”
The Fairer Future website features quotes from senior Fianna Fáil TDs - Éamon Ó Cuív and John McGuinness, both of whom this evening distanced themselves from the campaign.
The website quotes Mr Ó Cuív as saying: ”I can't see a coalition with Fine Gael.
“It is noting to do with historical issues but, in my view, they are very right wing – right wing economics, right wing attitude to people.
“They lack, in my view, the acceptance of people, the way people really are with all their issues. I feel Fianna Fáil would do a better job. We are not compatible with Fine Gael.”
And the website quotes Mr McGuinness as saying: “There is a consensus across the country that has grown since polling day within the membership, and indeed unspoken within the parliamentary party, that would say we do need to talk to others – including Sinn Féin."
Mr Ó Cuív did today urge the rejection of the government deal saying it lacks any detail on the Irish language, Irish-speaking areas, and the off-shore islands.
But he told Independent.ie he has had “no contact” with the Fairer Future organisation.
He said he is “not involved in their campaign and they did not ask my assistance.”
Mr McGuinness said: “I haven’t given anyone a quote on my position on this document.”