Northern Ireland

Former Fianna Fáil adviser calls Micheál Martin’s Alliance conference address ‘political two-timing’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin speaks at the Alliance Party conference dinner. PICTURE: Alliance Party

A former Fianna Fáil governent adviser has accused the party’s leader of “political two-timing” after he addressed Alliance Party members in Belfast on Friday night.

Derek Mooney, who left Fianna Fáil in protest at its decision to join the current coalition government, was one of those instrumental in developing stronger ties with the SDLP ahead of the 2019 partnership announcement. The relationship, which was dogged by internal SDLP opposition, was declared over some three years later.

Mr Mooney told The Irish News that Micheál Martin’s decision to speak to Alliance members was “either naivety or imprudence”.

“It smacks of putting personal optics ahead of sound political strategy,” he said.

In his address, the tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs backed Alliance calls for reform of the Stormont institutions.

Former Fianna Fáil adviser Derek Mooney
Former Fianna Fáil adviser Derek Mooney

Mr Martin also highlighted the growth of the centre-ground, which in recent years has seen Alliance gain seats in local government, the assembly and Westminster.

“As the Alliance vote, and consistent opinion polling shows, there is an undeniable increasing proportion of society here seeking a political home that is not primarily defined by the constitutional question,” Mr Martin said.

Among the seats targeted by Naomi Long’s party is South Belfast and Mid Down, where the sitting MP is the SDLP’s Claire Hanna. Mr Martin was welcomed on to the stage at Friday night’s conference event by Kate Nicholl, Alliance’s candidate in South Belfast and Mid Down.

Mr Mooney said he “questioned the wisdom” of the Fianna Fáil leader’s attendance at the Alliance event for two reasons – his previous associations with the SDLP and his failure to use the opportunity to advocate for a united Ireland.

“Why would a leader of a party that had a formal arrangement with the SDLP pick now to appear on an Alliance platform and be introduced by Ms Hanna’s challenger?” he said.

“How could Martin or his adviser not foresee the potential problems with this? It is either naivety or imprudence but it looks very much like political two-timing.”

The former Fianna Fáil adviser said he understood the tánaiste’s “personal desire to be perceived as open and engaged”.

The SDLP and Fianna Fáil have been approached for comment.