Brexit ‘trumps all other Fianna Fáil concerns’

By Daniel McConnell
Political Editor

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said his party members are “concerned” at the continued support of the Fine Gael minority Government but insisted Brexit trumps all other concerns.

Through his own discussions with colleagues, Mr Martin said he is aware of the “anger” at the party’s continued facilitation of the Government by way of the Confidence and Supply deal.

Ahead of his party’s ard fheis today, the party leader said he shared with the frustrations expressed, especially with the Government’s overreliance on spin and failing to follow through in terms of delivery.

“That is frustrating and creates a challenge for us and it is our aim to win more seats after the next general election and lead a government,” he said.

However, he said that despite shocking levels of incompetence from the Government on issues in health and transport, he and his party took the difficult but correct decision to stand back because of Brexit.

“Of course there is a lot of concern and there have been a lot of challenges these last three months, namely the children’s hospital, Cervical Check and the decision to offer smear checks.

“Our members are quite rightly angry about that and the failures to get delivery on housing as well. So there is a lot of anger out there towards the Government and a lack of confidence.

“That creates pressure and it is difficult to watch that level of incompetence unfold. But the key point is Brexit, and the people get it. Brexit overrides and trumps those issues,” Mr Martin said.

“The imminent threat of Brexit is the most serious threat faced by this country in a decade. It fundamentally changes the order of economic relationships between the UK and Ireland for the first time in 50 years.”

He said a no-deal Brexit would represent “Armageddon” for farmers, in particular.

Mr Martin said if a Brexit deal is reached before March 29, his commitment to facilitating another budget in October still stands despite an increasing belief the Government will fall, meantime.

“I stand by what I said in December that we will give the Government space throughout 2019 to deal with Brexit. So, unlike Sinn Féin who collapsed the executive two years ago, I certainly won’t go down that route,” he added.

Earlier yesterday, the party’s deputy leader Dara Calleary was adamant the party was not in danger of a split. He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland members are frustrated at the lack of action by the Government in the areas of health and housing, but they are committed to supporting the confidence and supply agreement at a difficult time. Furthermore, party members are ambitious for the future of Fianna Fáil, he said. “There is no chance of a split. There are good vigorous debates about policy, all feeding into a good healthy debate. Debate is healthy.”

Mr Calleary said Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in Health Minister Simon Harris was “complete political opportunism”. Fianna Fáil, he said, will continue to honour its commitment to negotiate a fourth Budget but there will be no free pass. He also anticipated robust debate at this weekend’s ard fheis.



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