Fianna Fáil gathered for a think-in in county Cavan last week but it was overshadowed by the Katherine Kappone affair and question marks about the leadership of party leader, Micheal Martin.
There was much tension and anger evident at the perceived ambivalence of Martin to the Zappone affair and allegations of double standards with regard to the sacking of ministers.
Many in Fianna Fáil are reeling at the Taoiseachs staunch defence of allegations of Tanaiste Leo Varadkar’s alleged leaking of cabinet confidential documents, to double standards in the application of covid restrictions around the Merrion hotel ‘knees up’ event and the perception of cronyism around the appointment of Ms Zappone to a prestigious role as a UN envoy and the involvement in this of Minister Simon Coveney.
The removal of Dara Calleary and Barry Cowen from the Agricultural ministry is being seen by many in a new light in the wake of ‘Merrion gate’ and Zappone controversies.
To make matters worse, the party is a relatively distant 3rd place in the opinion polls behind SF and FG with trends consistently putting the party’s national standing at between 11-17% over the course of the last year.
Focus turns this week to the Sinn Fein motion of no confidence in Minister Coveney in the Dail on Wednesday night.
Such motions are always generally used by opposition parties to embarrass the government of the day.
However it will surely be extremely difficult for Fianna Fáil TDs to walk through the lobbies in support of Coveney given the perception among the rank and file that the Taoiseach has permitted a situation where Fine Gael are seen as treating their coalition partners with absolute contempt.
A Taoiseach being kept out of the loop by a coalition partner over the Zappone affair is not a good look.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Marc Mac Sharry, an outspoken critic of Martin’s leadership style on many occasions spoke at the Cavan briefing.
Speaking exclusively to The Sligo Champion he said: “There must be consistency in the application of rules and any consequent sanctions.
“By any objective analysis, the Tanaiste’s ongoing leak-gate affair, the Merrion hotel event, the application and interpretation of covid restrictions and the perception of cronyism around the appointment of Ms Zappone as a UN envoy over the summer prove that depending who the protagonists involved are different rules apply.
“Such a situation is totally unacceptable and makes a mockery of our democracy.”
He continued: “At this time my focus is primarily on the delivery of housing for the nearly 3,000 people across this constituency on housing lists, to facilitate builders to build private housing for young families. I want a just solution to assist our suckler herd and their futures and in the coming months to secure the Technological Univeristy including St Angela’s for the northwest region. These are my priorities.
“In parallel, I will be seeking with colleagues to deal with the crisis in leadership within our party which has permitted and presided over an intolerable application of double standards which has damaged the entire political system and our democratic institutions,” he said.