FF leader denies party is 'getting it in neck' for propping up the Government
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is denying the party is "getting it in the neck" on doorsteps for propping up the Fine Gael-led minority Government.
He also insisted Fianna Fáil has shown "backbone" in holding the Government to account in response to criticism made by party colleague John McGuinness.
Mr McGuinness has publicly raised questions about the future of the deal that facilitates the Government.
Other TDs have privately said they were being criticised, both by the party grassroots and while out canvassing, for their continued facilitation of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Government.
Speculation on the future of the confidence and supply deal gained new impetus when Mr Varadkar wrote to Mr Martin asking for talks on extending the arrangement to begin before the Budget. He also sought an agreed election date in the summer of 2020.
Mr Martin has ruled out beginning talks before the Budget and last night insisted: "nobody's getting anything in the neck" on the issue.
He said he's been out on doors canvassing, and claimed voters were "impatient" and "angry" with Fine Gael, adding: "That's what we're getting on the ground."
In recent days, Carlow-Kilkenny TD Mr McGuinness told RTÉ that the confidence and supply agreement "has not served the country well".
He also claimed people were suffering because of the "poor policies of this Government" and that Fianna Fáil was "condoning it" due to the deal.
Mr McGuinness added: "I believe people want to see Fianna Fáil having a backbone being in Opposition and confronting the Government where it fails."
Mr Martin said he disagreed with Mr McGuinness's remarks. He argued it was because of Fianna Fáil's input that there was a "fundamental turnaround in budgetary direction" after it insisted on a 2:1 split between investment in services and tax measures.
He also pointed to education measures, such as reducing the pupil-teacher ratio, as well as increases in the State pension.
"These are very practical achievements where we have shown backbone and where we have said these things have to happen in Budgets," he said.
Asked if he would encourage Mr McGuinness to stop making such remarks and trust his judgment, Mr Martin replied: "I encourage healthy debate in the party."
He added he knows Mr McGuinness well and said it "wouldn't be the most optimal approach to take".
Mr Martin was speaking at his party's think-in meeting in Malahide. He said the main issues they were focusing on were housing and health.
Mr Martin hit out at Mr Varadkar for what he described as his "famous letter", claiming it contained "un-costed" promises for what Fine Gael and Independents would deliver in government if the deal is extended.
He said Fianna Fáil would honour the current agreement, and wanted to negotiate a third Budget and deal with the "real issues" people are facing. He rejected the use of Brexit as a rationale for renegotiating the confidence and supply deal now
He said Fianna Fáil's commitment to support the Budget includes the finance and social welfare bills which won't pass until January.