Friday 23 February 2018

John McGuinness and Eamon O Cuiv 'disloyal' says Billy Kelleher

But Micheal Martin's authority challenged amid fresh party revolt

Rebel TD John McGuinness is refusing to be silenced
Rebel TD John McGuinness is refusing to be silenced
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has been accused of "being afraid of his own shadow" after a major row at a private party meeting last Thursday night.

Mr Martin came under sustained fire from younger members to show leadership, at a gathering of the party's national executive or Ard Comhairle on Thursday night in Leinster House.

The row comes as the latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown national opinion poll shows Fianna Fail unchanged at 19pc, and as a result the party has been below 20pc for three polls in a row.

Several sources present at the meeting have told the Sunday Independent that Mr Martin refused to consider repeated calls for him to fully expel Senator Jim Walsh from the party over persistent hard line conservative viewpoints.

Senator Walsh resigned the parliamentary party whip last week over his opposition to the Children and Family Relationship Bill.

But there were repeated calls at the meeting for the leader to formally expel from the party altogether given his "incompatable" views on social issues.

Mr Martin was not prepared to consider those calls saying that it was important to "maintain the middle ground".

"But Micheal repeatedly shot those calls down. He said he did not want to make a martyr of Walsh, but many people felt he was just afraid to make a move," said one source at the meeting.

"He is afraid of his own shadow. Surely, he needs to be strong on this," said one leading member.

Speaking yesterday, Timmy Dooley, the party's transport spokesman said: "There were calls from the younger members for Jim to be removed from the party. Micheal said he had done this to himself by resigning the whip. But some wanted him to go further."

"He certainly got annoyed, we wouldn't let it go. Younger members like Kate Feeney were pressing hard for him to move but he repeatedly sought to deflect," said another.

It has also emerged that dissident TD Eamon O Cuiv had stoked the flames at the meeting, calling on members to "rise up with passion" over the party's lack of direction and policy.

"He cornered us ahead of the meeting and called on us to raise issues at the meeting over the state of the party," said one member.

Mr Dooley said he was not aware of Mr O Cuiv's actions ahead of the meeting but said if they happened it was "outrageous" that he did so.

Neither Mr O Cuiv or Mr Walsh responded to calls yesterday from the Sunday Independent.

Speaking last week, Senator Walsh said: 'I'm making no comment on this until after the Easter break.'

It has emerged that Mr O Cuiv and Kilkenny TD John McGuinness were branded "disloyal" to the party and leader Micheal Martin at a behind closed-door parlimentary party meeting of the party, also last week.

In a major clash with McGuinness, the party's health spokesman Billy Kelleher said that those who had been speaking out were betraying the party and the leader.

"I say this not as a friend or foe of the leader, but let there be no ambiguity around this table, there has to be a degree of loyalty to the party and to the leader, and those speaking out must realise that."

The outspoken McGuinness, who repeated his criticisms of the party and its management, insisted that he be allowed respond to what Mr Martin had said, leading Kelleher to say: "There is no responding in this, you accept it or you don't."

Sunday Independent

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