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Taoiseach says Fianna Fáil must achieve ‘unity' at think-in

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Dominic McGrath, PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that he wants his party to “unite” as parliamentarians gathered at the Fianna Fáil think-in in Cavan.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a closed-door meeting of the parliamentary party this afternoon, Mr Martin insisted that he intended to remain as leader despite internal opposition from some party members.

“I’ve been a member of parliament for many, many years. I have rarely ever seen unanimity on many issues, including who leads the party. So that’s not news. And my challenge is to hear people, my job is to listen.

“And I think what’s important coming out of this meeting is that the party unites.”

Earlier today, Sean Fleming, the Fianna Fáil TD charged with authoring a report into the party’s electoral fortunes in recent years, insisted that he did not see “any prospect” of a challenge to the Taoiseach when the parliamentary party meets for the think-in.

More than 2,500 Fianna Fáil members contributed to the report, which recommends that the party needs to re-establish a distinct identity.

The findings of the report are expected to be discussed by Fianna Fáil politicians during today’s meeting.

Mr Martin said that now was an “opportunity” to learn lessons for the party.

He said: “In terms of the review of the last general election, we will have a very comprehensive engagement in relation to the work that has been carried out by Sean Fleming. It was the largest ever survey undertaken by the party members, which in itself is significant.

“We had the largest vote of any party in terms of grassroots voting that Fianna Fáil would go into government, with 74% supporting that. As an exercise in grassroots democracy, that was significant, as was the survey contributing to the review. We clearly have lessons to learn.

“We were disappointed with the outcome of the election, we have lessons to learn from that, even though we are still the largest party in the Oireachtas, still the largest in local government.

“But we do need to change, particularly align ourselves with the emerging modern Ireland of the 21st century, and there is internal reflection needed there.

He acknowledged that the confidence-and-supply arrangement with Fine Gael, which had kept the party’s historical political opponent in power until the 2020 election, had caused problems for the party.

“It did prove problematic, without question, towards the end and I think there are very fair points made in relation to that. But again, we did put the country first because of the Brexit situation that had arisen,” Mr Martin said.

He said that it was “unique” that his party had published the review into its electoral performance “warts and all”.

Mr Martin rejected any suggestion that he would not take up the role of Tanaiste when the time comes for Leo Varadkar to take up the role of Taoiseach as part of the deal agreed between the two government parties.

“We have entered into a coalition government and we have made commitments in relation to that. I’m going to follow through on those commitments.”

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