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'I was in the bar when the cheer went up': Politicians hit the airwaves to play election blame game

Minister Regina Doherty has said she heard a roar from Fianna Fáil TDs.

Minister for Social Protection Regin Doherty.
Minister for Social Protection Regin Doherty.

POLITICIANS FROM ALL sides of the house have been attempting to apportion blame for the current political crisis that is threatening to bring about a general election.

On RTÉ’s The Week in Politics this afternoon, Minister Regina Doherty repeatedly used the words “we don’t want an election” before saying that she was among the people who heard Fianna Fáil politicians cheering in the Dáil bar on Thursday night.

That evening, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan went on RTÉ’s Six One news to confirm that his party would not be voting confidence in Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Several media reports said that his comments were cheered loudly by his party colleagues who were watching in the Dáil bar. Speaking to Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary TD, Doherty said she was among those who heard the roar.

“I was in the bar on Wednesday (sic) when the cheer and round of applause went up and that’s exactly what this is about,” she said.

This is about your gentlemen being fed up with being brought to the brink of a confidence and supply agreement that they don’t want to stand over anymore, That’s what this is about.

Calleary said he was not among those who were cheering O’Callaghan in the bar.

“Absolutely not, this is very serious business and I certainly wasn’t cheering this. We want to see it resolved, we want to see it resolved in the best interests of Maurice McCabe,” he said.

dc Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary. Source: RTÉ Player

Calleary said that the blame for the brinkmanship between the two largest parties rests with Fine Gael. Specifically, he said, with the government’s failure to be transparent about what it knew and when about a plan by senior gardaí to smear whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

In a meeting yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar handed over documents to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in an attempt to convince him that Fitzgerald had acted appropriately.

Calleary argued today that the fact new documents are being produced is a problem in itself.

“The fact they we’re doing this trawl is exactly why we’re here,” he said.

The fact that we’re doing this trawl after a tribunal was set up, after a tribunal demanded information, that the government still aren’t confident that the tribunal has all the necessary information is exactly why were here.

cd Independent TD Clare Daly. Source: RTÉ Player

Explainer: Why we are on the verge of a general election >

Independent TD Clare Daly, who has been one of the most consistent advocates for McCabe, said she feels an election would be a punishment for “the political establishment” who she says has failed to deal with issues within the gardaí.

“Politics can have a momentum of itself that is never planned. I think in ironic way if we end up with an election on this it’s the price being paid by the political establishment for their failure to deal with the dysfunctional relationship between the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána,” she said.

Daly also went on to say that she feels Fianna Fáil is simply “sick of sitting on the fence” as part of the confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael.

I suppose the irony of the present junction is that we have been consistently highlighting this since May 2016 when all of the information about the strategy of the commissioner to impugn the reputation of Maurice McCabe was known.

“The pressure that’s been on in the last period is from the dysfunctional confidence and supply arrangement and Fianna Fáil being sick of sitting on the fence so long that I think their trousers are getting a little bit sore. Now they’ve decided to jump off and I think maybe their bluff has been called,” she added.

mlmd Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald. Source: RTÉ player

Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was also on the programme and she confirmed that she would be leading her party into a snap election if one was called.

The party’s president Gerry Adams will not be seeking reelection to the Dáil and is to step down from the leadership of his party.

Sinn Féin tabled a motion of no confidence in Fitzgerald on Thursday and Fianna Fáil followed suit with their own the following day.

McDonald said that her party’s motion was not about bringing about an election but was about “accountability in the Tánaiste and the Department of the Justice”.

Despite this, McDonald said that her party was ready for an election:

I have no fear of an election. I think there has always been an argument for an election when this sort of rickety, shambolic arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. A government that has failed to tackle the housing crisis, the health crisis, the things that really impinge on people’s lives. So yes, I want to see a change in government.

Read: ‘A mockery of our democracy’: Pressure increases on Varadkar to make Dept of Justice docs public >

Read: All to play for: Timely opinion poll shows FG dropping and FF catching >

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Rónán Duffy

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