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Ó Cuív: 'FF seems to be saying that even if we are in government, things wouldn’t change'

The Galway West TD said he was surprised to hear Micheál Martin had signed up to another 12 months of the confidence and supply deal.

Fianna Fail's Eamon O'Cuiv says radical change is needed.
Fianna Fail's Eamon O'Cuiv says radical change is needed.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

NOT ONE TO shy away from criticising his own party, Galway TD Eamon Ó Cuív has said he was “very surprised” when he heard Fianna Fáil had renewed the confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael for another 12 months. 

In an interview with TheJournal.ie, Ó Cuív said:

“I was very surprised, I think everyone was, because our understanding was they were in a review of the last confidence and supply. I think it would be fair to say, even though it wasn’t discussed at the parliamentary party, the vast majority of TDs accept it.”

Ó Cuív’s comments follow harsh criticism from other Fianna Fail TDs who have questioned why – in the midst of health and housing crises – Micheál Martin would allow Fine Gael to keep running the show.

By signing up to another 12 months, Ó Cuív said his own party seem to be suggesting they could not do a better job of running the country. 

Do a better job

“My fundamental point, and I think this would be accepted and absolutely standard in politics, is that the reason you don’t belong, in this case, to the government party, is because you believe your party in government would do a lot better.

“Now we seem to be saying that even if we are in government, things wouldn’t change, and I would hate to think that that would be true. We need radical change,” he said. 

Martin said Brexit left him with no choice but to renew the deal, while also getting little in return for doing so, but Ó Cuív argues that an election at this time would not be destabilising – pointing out that the UK held its own election in the middle of all the Brexit drama. 

“I think it [renewal of confidence and supply] is a matter that needs deep reflection over the next four or five months to see what happened, but the reality is elections should not be destabilising, they are part of democracy,” he said.

Despite what the polls might say, Ó Cuív believes Fianna Fáil has a shot at being the largest party after the next general election. 

“The likelihood after the next election, if the present government did not get reelected, would be a Fianna Fáil-led government, that should not destabilise anything,” he said, adding that there is no reason to think that it would take two or three months to form a government again (last time around it took 70 days).

“I think parties that were reluctant to be part of government formation last time would be queuing at the door. At the end of the day, where I come from right across the spectrum I think this government are not doing a good job. I am talking about everyday things that people contend with,” said Ó Cuív, adding that he is in touch with “the realities of people’s lives”. 

He said people are still dealing with residual debt issues, housing shortages, hospital waiting lists and broadband provision.

The Galway TD said the current government is not a “good” government, adding that in his view, they are not competent. 

“I would like to see a change in government but Micheál has signed up, it seems the majority of the parliamentary party backed that and I accept the will of the majority.”

If an election was to be held and Fianna Fáil became the largest party, what other parties might it talk to? Ó Cuív rules out a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

‘Fine Gael are a right-wing party’

“I can’t see a coalition with Fine Gael, it is nothing 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 would feel Fianna Fail would do a better job. We are not compatible [with Fine Gael].”

He added that this was the view of the party membership also.

What about Sinn Féin? 

“Micheál has said they are off the table, so we’ll say no more about that,” adds Ó Cuív.

While Ó Cuív said he is not “privy” to the information as to why his party leader signed up for another year of the confidence and supply agreement, he said he hopes his party has solutions to some of society’s problems. 

“I think I have answers to some of the problems,” he said, however, he admitted he has concerns about the move towards centralised power within his own party, and other areas of society. 

“One of the things that fascinates me, in many organisations, not just Fianna Fáil, but including Fianna Fáil, is the centralising forces, it is a massive modern phenomenon.

“You see it in the health sector, but you also see it in Fianna Fáil and I don’t think that is good,” he said, pointing out that the GAA has managed to avoid centralisation with the county and club still being autonomous. 

“This is a challenge in Fianna Fáil but I don’t think we are unique with this problem.” 

While some might view Ó Cuív’s comments as the Galway TD sticking it to his party leader, he views it as voicing an opinion on Fianna Fáil’s path forward.

His relationship with Micheál Martin

There has long been talk over the years that Martin and Ó Cuív don’t see eye to eye on many subject matters, though Ó Cuív will not speculate as to whether the Cork TD will be forced to move on if Fianna Fáil fail in gaining more seats after the next election. 

So what is their relationship like now, particularly since Martin removed him from the frontbench for his role in launching a local election candidate in the North without Martin’s say so?

“I think we always got on okay, but I think it would be true to say that we hold different views on many many different subjects, but I tend to work with all sorts of people who don’t share my view on a whole range of subjects.”

Having robust debate on issues “is what makes life interesting”, said Ó Cuív, adding that people having different opinions is good, otherwise things begin to stagnate. 

One of the problems in modern politics is the lack of debate, the lack of challenging perceived wisdoms, the lack at looking at the thing that had validity last year or ten years ago and that doesn’t have validity anymore, because the world has moved on.

The full interview with Eamon Ó Cuív on what did happen with that local election candidate launch in North and why he says he did what he did for the “greater good” will be published at 9.30pm.

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