There have been calls for leadership change in Fianna Fáil, as well as robust defences of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, at a special party meeting to discuss its poor performance in the 2020 general election.
The meeting of the party’s TDs and Senators in Co Cavan has heard criticism of the party’s strategy and leadership during a day-long discussion on a report reviewing how expected gains for the party in the election turned into a seven-seat loss.
The meeting which began just after 3pm broke for dinner at 7pm after only nine speakers had addressed colleagues. To prevent any leaks of proceedings, those present were asked to hand over their mobile phones for the duration of the session.
Those coming out told The Irish Times that the meeting had been slow with a relatively calm atmosphere. The most stringent criticism had come from Offaly TD Barry Cowen as well as Sligo TD Marc MacSharry, both of whom were critical of the leadership.
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath is said to have made a very strong speech defending Mr Martin both during the election campaign and as leader.
The Dublin Bay South TD Jim O’Callaghan also contributed to the meeting with a strong criticism of over-centralisation of decision-making in the party.
Sources in the room told The Irish Times there was applause for contributions in defence of the Taoiseach, as supporters seek to rally middle ground TDs.
One Fianna Fáil source, speaking to the PA news agency, described the meeting as “tense” at times but said it had been “constructive”.
They said that the meeting had heard “mixed views”.
Another senior figure said the meeting had been “helpful” and that many submissions had gone on for a long time.
In his speech to colleagues, Mr Martin said he accepted some of the criticism that was made in the report and accepted that lessons needed to be learned.
The Taoiseach told the meeting that Fianna Fáil is doing well in Government. According to those present he said the party’s focus was on the substance and delivery.
“We will act on the recommendations and the election review,” he told colleagues. “We must attract more young people by emphasising how we want to make changes so that Ireland is more progressive.”
The report contained 57 recommendations for change. It strongly criticised the party’s election strategy and campaign management, a very poor social media presence, a perception the party had opposed repealing the Eighth Amendment on abortion, as well as an over-focus on attacking Sinn Féin.