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Micheál Martin brushes off suggestion he won't take over as Tánaiste under 'rotating Taoiseach' deal

Questions have been asked about the leadership of the Fianna Fáil party since the dismal result in Dublin Bay South.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN was asked at a press conference today if he realistically sees himself as Tánaiste in 2022.

An alternating system was agreed under the programme for government, whereby Martin will remain Taoiseach until 15 December 2022.

After that date, Leo Varadkar will become Taoiseach and Martin is set to become Tánaiste.

At a press conference today in Dundalk, Martin said he was very committed to the continuation of the “unprecedented” coalition formed with Fine Gael and the Green Party last year.

He suggested that the “sustainability and its continuation” involves “that transition” in relation to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste roles, stating it is a “important part” of the deal.

“That’s an important part of it which I have been consistently saying,” he said.

Last year, Martin said he will continue to lead his party after he hands over the position of Taoiseach to Varadkar.

Questions have been asked about the leadership of the Fianna Fáil party since the dismal result of their by-election candidate Deirdre Conroy, who failed to get above 5% of the vote.

Fuel was thrown on the debate on Friday when the party’s Director of Elections for the Dublin Bay South by-election Jim O’Callaghan was asked if he thought the Taoiseach should lead the party if the general election is held in 2024/25.

He replied: “We’ll have to think about that.”

O’Callaghan admitted the party’s performance in the election was “disappointing” and added that his party does not understand the scale of the housing crisis.

The next day, he ruled out a motion of no confidence in Martin, but supported the call for a meeting to discuss the by-election results.

The Taoiseach said today that he is open to holding an in-person meeting of his parliamentary party to discuss the by-election result in Dublin Bay South, but said it won’t be this week.

Throughout the pandemic political parties, such as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, have  been holding their regular weekly party meetings online.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen wrote to party members seeking an in-person meeting to discuss the results and fallout of the party’s election result, calling it “alarming”.

Downplaying the criticisms, the Taoiseach put the result of Labour’s Ivana Bacik being elected down to the respect she carries in the constituency.

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“That was very clear to me and I think that’s what was the fundamental issue at play in that by-election,” he said.

“I’m very heartened actually by the response I’m getting from members of the parliamentary party and membership across the country,” he added.

“We’re very clear on where the focus of the party should be, and that the party should be united and focused on the issues that matter to the people, such as getting through Covid-19 and also dealing with the big issues around employment, housing, education and health and climate change.”

While it is widely understood that there has been a circling of the wagons around the Taoiseach by senior ministers that support him, the result of the by-election ratchets up pressure from within the party for there to be a fresh look at the leadership.

While no one in Leinster House appears to feel that a heave of any sort is imminent against the Taoiseach from within his own party, there are critics of Martin’s performance who feel now is the time for O’Callaghan to speak up more and put another perspective forward. 

While there won’t be a heated in-person debate this week, there will no doubt be very frank words spoken at this week’s Fianna Fáil party meeting.

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