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Micheál Martin to face questions from grassroots about keeping FG in government until 2020

The party is holding its Ard Fheis at Citywest today.

Image: Sam Boal

“WE CAN’T RISK another five years of Fine Gael and its cheerleaders.”

Those were the words of the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin during his keynote speech at his party’s Ard Fheis in 2016. 

Martin went on to tell his grassroots members that year:

“Let no one tell you that there is no choice – that we just have to let them carry on,” he said, adding:

“Fine Gael and its cheerleaders relentlessly like to push the line that we can’t risk change. The truth is our country can’t risk five more years of this government.”

Fast forward three years and today, at the party’s Ard Fheis in Citywest, Martin will have to sell another story to his members. 

One in which he has to explain why Fianna Fáil has signed up to keep Fine Gael in power until 2020 – just one year shy of the situation he previously shunned. 

The Fianna Fáil leader says there is a big reason as to why he has gone down this road. 

Brexit. 

However, there are some in the party that are not happy, and don’t buy into the strategy of their leader. They are fed up of biding their time, fed up of ‘getting it in the neck’ from their constituents and members, and fed up of the party appearing to say “they can’t do much better”, which is what veteran Fianna Fáiler Éamon Ó Cuív believes his party is selling. 

However, one TD loyal to the Cork TD said the majority back the party leader 100% in his strategy, stating that it will pay off, and that the people will thank them for taking the high road at a time when Ireland is facing into a national emergency. 

But how will Micheál convince his party that he knows best? 

He said Fianna Fáil had to take the “hard decision” before Christmas to continue with the confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael. A decision, he still believes, was the right one.

While he said not everyone was at the party meeting in which it was raised, he says the majority of TDs and senators back him up on that call.

“Of course there is a lot of concern” among members, Martin acknowledged to reporters yesterday, adding that his party members are “rightly angry” at the government over issues such as housing and rental prices. 

But he believes his members and the public see that Fianna Fáil are keeping the government in place for the greater good. 

“I think the public get it that Brexit overrides and trumps those issues,” he said. 

Giving the government time and space to deal with Brexit throughout 2019 is something he stands by, stating that you can’t be piecemeal about the confidence and supply and only push it out every month or so.  

Even if a deal is agreed between the UK and the EU and there is a soft Brexit, Martin said, there will still be consequences for Ireland, essentially also ruling out that he will go to the people in that scenario.

“I think in fairness we have been constructive in terms of the confidence and supply, I think we have been honourable and gone by our word and we will continue,” he said.  

While Martin is happy to keep the ship steady, rather than thrust the country into a “chaotic situation”, as he puts it, he does have sights set on the future of his own career.  

Martin said Fianna Fáil wants to lead the government after the next election, and perhaps go into coalition with other “like-minded” parties. After the 2016 election, Martin said the assumption was they would lose seats, but they gained them. 

It will be the same this time around, said Martin, who adds Fianna Fáil “will surprise people” in the next general election. 

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