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Micheál Martin attempts to smooth over discontent within the party over ministerial snubs

Micheál Martin said he understood why some members were upset.


MICHEÁL MARTIN has tried to smooth over the criticisms from within his own party this evening by telling members he had to make difficult choices when appointing his Cabinet.

At the parliamentary party meeting, held at the Convention Centre tonight, the Fianna Fáil leader said he understood the anger expressed by some party members. 

He said many had justified expectations given their performance over the last number of years that they would get a seat around the Cabinet table.

In a bid to move on from what has been a bumpy week for the new Taoiseach, Martin said now is the time to “rejuvenate the party”, stating ”we must now get on with governing”.

He said senior members of the party will now take charge of renewing the party, something TD Jim O’Callaghan previously said he wanted to do when he turned down a job offered by Martin.

The Taoiseach also said a new committee is to be established to maintain the identity of the party while in government. 

Martin also gave a commitment ministers will keep TDs and senators fully briefed.

It is understood TD Barry Cowen spoke at tonight’s meeting, but addressed issues on forestry and tree felling licences.

It is believed that Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry told the meeting tonight that forestry is vitally important and acknowledged the need to increase the national average on planting. However, he said 50% of Leitrim agricultural land is already planted.

In replying, Cowen raised the issue of the recent landslide in Leitrim, stating that he has agreed to meet with the landowners and an independent assessment is to be carried out. 

Party sources state that MacSharry said ”don’t tell me we’re already going native” on the first day, referencing the independent report being carried out.

He did not mention the drink-driving ban controversy that has dogged him and the party this week.

Aside from the Cowen controversy, the Cabinet appointments resulted in a number of party members being highly critical of Martin, particularly for overlooking the deputy party leader Mayo TD Dara Calleary.

Calleary expressed disappointment at not being appointed a minister.

Ahead of the Cabinet appointments, it had been assumed that Calleary would be appointed to a senior role but he was instead appointed as Chief Whip, in charge of ensuring government TDs are in the Dáil chamber to take part in crucial votes, among other tasks. He was later given a beefed-up junior ministerial position.

Speaking to MidWest Radio last week, Calleary said: “We had a very difficult conversation and I told him I was disappointed. I had hoped to lead a department. That’s always been my ambition and I can tell you that it’s still my ambition and it will happen, it will absolutely happen.”

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Willie O’Dea, a TD for Limerick City, has also expressed his disappointment at being overlooked for a ministerial position.

O’Dea said he was “bitterly disappointed” that Limerick “has been completely overlooked” for either a senior or junior ministerial role.

Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan said he told new Taoiseach Micheál Martin “a few home truths” on foot of him not being appointed a junior minister.

The Cork North West TD said he was insulted and “very disappointed” to not receive a promotion this week.

Moynihan said Martin called him to discuss the issue yesterday evening and the pair had a “very fraught” discussion.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath also briefed members at tonight’s parliamentary party meeting, giving them an update on the first Economic Recovery sub-Cabinet committee meeting, which was chaired by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar today. 

A number of TDs said there was a need for the measures in the July stimulus package to help the tourism and transport sectors. Some also expressed concern about having to defend Fine Gael policies over the last nine years now that the party is in government with with.

It is understood that John McGuinness said some of the responses from ministers this week were “very Fine Gael-ish”, with some TDs stating that they would not be rushing to defend the actions of Fine Gael over the last number of years just because they are now partners in government.

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