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'I want Micheál Martin to succeed as Taoiseach' says Jim O'Callaghan after bruising FF meeting

O’Callaghan said the Taoiseach is ‘doing a good job’.

"I see my responsibility as a senior back bench Fianna Fáil TD as to play my role in trying to ensure that we can strengthen Fianna Fáil as a party," said O'Callaghan.
Image: Leah Farrell

FIANNA FÁIL’S JIM O’Callaghan has said he fully supports Micheál Martin and “now is not the time to change leader”.

The Dublin Bay South told Claire Byrne this morning on RTÉ Radio One that he does not agree with his party colleague Éamon Ó Cuív who said there should be a change of leadership in Fianna Fáil.

He said he wants Martin to succeed as Taoiseach, stating that he is “doing a good job, he has my support”.

He said he hasn’t been spoken to by Ó Cuív in terms of pushing the Taoiseach to step down.

On ambitions to be the leader of Fianna Fáil he said he wasn’t going to undermine the Taoiseach, if there were to be a vacancy he would give it consideration.

He said it would be an honour for every member of the party to become leader of the party. 

“All of us have to try to ensure that the Government succeeds and Fianna Fáil succeeds and I want to play my part in that.”

However, “when there is a vacancy, I will give it consideration”, he said. “I probably will do at that stage,” he said, if he secures a nomination.

Asked about whether Leo Varadkar was running rings around the Taoiseach, O’Callaghan didn’t agree.

He said that the Taoiseach’s performance is good and wasn’t worried about Varadkar’s performance saying he didn’t believe his performance was better than Micheál Martin’s. 

His comments come the day after a heated Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, where there was a backlash from some new Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators who criticised Martin and Fianna Fáil’s performance in Government.

It was agreed that a review of the party’s performance in the general election would be undertaken, while concerns were raised about the poor performance in a recent poll, which placed at the party at just 10%.

Concerns were also aired about the public criticisms of the party, and the Taoiseach’s performance, with some stating it was damaging the party.

When asked why he did not speak up in support for the Taoiseach last night, O’Callaghan said there are concerns that what is said at the parliamentary party meeting will end up being reported in the media, stating that there are other ways to communicate support.

At last week’s meeting, Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry told the party meeting that the Taoiseach’s relationship with his TDs was one of “a teacher to his pupils where the the parliamentarians are empty vessels eager to learn from the master”.

There were also reports that he said the Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn was “scaring the bejaysus” out of people at the weekly briefings.

MacSharry is understood to have clarified his remarks about the CMO, stating the only one who spoke publicly about his contribution was the Taoiseach, who MacSharry said had totally misrepresented the portion of his contribution relevant to the CMO and Covid to the extent MacSharry privately had to contact Dr Glynn last weekend to clarify what he actually said.

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MacSharry also told his colleagues about his very first parliamentary party meeting in 2002 when there was a “squirmish between dissenters and Bertie [Ahern] loyalists”, one side criticising the other for dissenting on issues.

He reminded them that Fianna Fáil politician Dr Michael Woods said at the time that it is important there is difference, disagreements and debate otherwise it’s just public administration.

MacSharry told the parliamentary party said the meetings should be a place for such discussion and dissent.

The Taoiseach is believed to have told his party members that he welcomes dissent and his door is always open.

Fianna Fáil has had a bruising start in government, but O’Callaghan said today that his party needs to remain in Irish politics as a centre-left party, otherwise Ireland will end up with the politics of the UK and the US. 

On his decision to turn down the Minister of State job, O’Callaghan said he was happy that he did and that he saw it as a limited role. 

“I see my responsibility as a senior back bench Fianna Fáil TD as to play my role in trying to ensure that we can strengthen Fianna Fáil as a party.”

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