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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C

Micheál Martin insists he will take up the role of Tánaiste at the end of next year

Members are being asked to put their mobile devices in a container at the side of the room at today’s meeting.

TAOISEACH MICHEAL MARTIN says he will lead Fianna Fáil into the next election.

Speaking at the start of the Fianna Fáil think-in in Cavan today, he also said that he will take up the role as Tánaiste in December 2022 under the Taoiseach rotation agreement in the programme for government.

“We have entered into a coalition government and we have made commitments in relation to that. I’m going to follow through on those commitments,” he said.

He told reporters today that he has not ruled out another coalition with Fine Gael.

There are “lessons to learn” following the review of the party’s recent performances in general and European elections, he added.

First on the agenda for today’s meeting, which got underway at 3pm, is analysing the party’s result in the last general election.

The review

A report – though over a year old – will be presented to members by the party’s chair TD Sean Fleming.

Fianna Fáil had expected to make gains at the 2020 general election – and did manage to return more TDs than either Sinn Féin or Fine Gael – but ended up losing seven seats, dropping from 45 before the election to 38. 

The report, 44 pages long, cites the lack of strategic oversight, and responding too slow to issues during the election as some of he key problems.

“In terms of the review of the last general election, we will have a very comprehensive engagement in relation to the work that has been carried out by Sean Fleming. It was the largest ever survey undertaken by the party members, which in itself is significant.

“We had the largest vote of any party in terms of grass roots voting that Fianna Fail would go into government, with 74% supporting that. As an exercise in grass roots democracy, that was significant, as was the survey contributing to the review. We clearly have lessons to learn.

“We were disappointed with the outcome of the election, we have lessons to learn from that, even though we are still the largest party in the Oireachtas, still the largest in local government.

“But we do need to change, particularly align ourselves with the emerging modern Ireland of the 21st century, and there is internal reflection needed there.

“But primarily Fianna Fail has to be a party, and is a party, that always looks outward, that we are there to serve the people and not ourselves. We are there to contribute to the wellbeing of our people on the island of Ireland and do whatever we can to improve the quality of life of the people on this island.”

When asked about the confidence and supply agreement with the Fine Gael party in the last government, Martin conceded that the arrangement with Fine Gael proved “problematic, without question, towards the end”.

“I think are very fair points made in the review in relation to that, but again, we did put the country first because of the Brexit situation that had arisen.

“It wasn’t ideal at all in terms of progressing issues around housing or climate change,” he acknowledged.

Party leadership 

The debate be on the party’s future will also be front and centre today.

So delicate will be the discussion, that it is understood that TDs, Senators and MEPs have been told to leave their mobile devices in a container at the side of the room.

But the party leader appeared un-phased by the criticisms coming from his own party members, telling reporters:

“I’ve rarely ever see unanimity on many issues including who leads the party, so that’s not news.”

“It’s my challenge to hear people, my job to listen and I think what’s important coming out of this meeting, is that the party unites. We have unity of purpose and facing the challenges, particularly for the country, very significant challenges laying ahead,” he said.

A list of 15 Fianna Fail TDs who would back a motion of no confidence in Martin has been doing the rounds since before the summer.

The list is still four names short of the necessary 19 to win a no confidence vote.

When asked about the list today, Martin dismissed it, stating that some of the people on the list were surprised to see their own name on it.

While some believe there will be a showdown this evening with the party leader over the election results, as well as the apparent identity crisis in the party, one TD said they didn’t expect it to get “too out of hand”.

While some predict there will be a move against Martin within Fianna Fáil next year, before he is to take over as Tánaiste, TDs understood to be in the group eager for him to go said it won’t be today or any time soon.

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