Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# election mode
Fianna Fáil's gender issues, and 4 other things we learned from the party's think-in...
How do they encourage more women to run for the Dáil? Micheál wants to be Taoiseach – but with which party’s backing? Here’s how things went, down in Roscommon…

FIANNA FÁIL TDs and senators met for the last two days in Roscommon, as the main political parties continued their series of think-ins ahead of the new Dáil term (it’s back tomorrow, you’ll all be pleased to hear).

Micheál Martin was keen to lay into the Government on as many issues as possible as the get-together kicked-off yesterday — and his accusation that the Government effectively “cooked the books” when coming up with the health budget last year created plenty of headlines.

The issue of who his party might or might not go into coalition with after the next general election was the main focus of the media today, however — after the leader made some surprisingly categorical statements on a likely partnership with either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.

Let’s get into it…

1. Micheál wants to be Taoiseach….

Hardly surprising for the leader of a main party, but his statement to that effect on Morning Ireland today threw the focus to the likely make-up of the Dáil after the next election. FF are currently at 18 per cent in the polls, so in all likelihood any government they plan to head up will have to be a coalition one. The scene at this afternoon’s set-piece media-op with journalists almost took on a comic tone as reporters repeatedly asked Martin to nail his colours to the mast.


 [Daragh Brophy/]

As the exchange ended, he appeared to leave the prospect of a deal with Labour open… But that, in turn, left him open to this stinger from Joan Burton…

Given that we’ve been dealing with Fianna Fáil’s legacy — the horrors that the country fell into in their last numbers of years in office, I’m not sure that we’d be rushing to that decision.

“It’s not something that preoccupies us,” another TD insisted to reporters later. Privately, however, there was plenty of speculation on the subject of potential coalition partners amongst members.

2. TDs are expecting an election next year

The next General Election doesn’t have to happen until spring 2016 — but there’s a growing expectation amongst Fianna Fáil that the country will go to the polls late next year: after next year’s Budget announcement, was the assessment of one senior TD.

The party’s hoping for a by-election boost in Roscommon-South Leitrim next month, as it moves into campaign mode — but they’re expecting tough competition from ‘Ming’-endorsed turf-cutter Michael Fitzmaurice. The fact that the think-in was held in Roscommon town, not Dublin South West (where there’s also a Dáil vote happening) might give some indication of how the party’s expecting to do in the latter contest…

3. The party has a woman problem…

Fianna Fáil only has two female members in its parliamentary party — Averil Power and Mary White. Both women are senators; no female TDs were reelected for the party in 2011.

It’s something they need to address urgently heading into a year of campaigning — to that end, Yvonne Galligan, who helms the Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics, met with members today to talk about how to ensure enough women are selected as candidates in time for the election (when strict gender quotas also kick in).

It will be “a challenge” Michéal Martin admitted today, but the party has “a lot of greenfield sites, in electoral terms” where there are no incumbents standing for the Dáil next time around.

Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland ... Mary White and Averil Power Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland ... Mary White and Averil Power / Photocall Ireland ... Mary White and Averil Power

4. Water charges are the Government’s weak spot…

The party’s banking on the coalition becoming increasingly unpopular as the new water charges kick-in, from the end of this year.

To that end, their Environment spokesman Barry Cowen will hit the ground running tomorrow night — launching a Private Members Bill to refocus attention on the subject (it’s aimed at exempting households with contaminated supplies from the water charges).

But how would Fianna Fáil in power deal with the issue? An economist with the Nevin Institute had some stark advice for members yesterday.

5. There were no late nights for Micheál…

Fianna Fáil has some history with think-ins, as you may well recall. But — with an early morning radio interview scheduled — there was never any chance of Micheál Martin allowing himself to be spotted chatting at the bar late at night.

The leader said his goodnights at around 11 o’clock.

Read: Having ruled out Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, would Fianna Fáil go into coalition with Labour?

Column:  Gender quotas do women no favours – and undermine democracy

Your Voice
Readers Comments