Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has signed up to a ‘cowardice-and-surrender’ deal with Fine Gael which risks destroying his party. A colleague hit out at the spring 2020 confidence and supply deal extension.
Mr Martin defended the criticism, by insisting the deepening Brexit crisis had left him with no other option than to put the country first, after Deputy John McGuinness said the deal risks putting the party “in a straitjacket”.
After Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil confirmed midweek the extension of the agreement, Mr McGuinness said the decision ignores the pressing issues facing ‘real people’ in Ireland.
He told RTE Radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme “this deal puts us in a straitjacket – it is not the right kind of politics” and further claimed “people will feel abandoned by the party”if implemented.
In a later exchange on social media website Twitter, Mr McGuinness warned the party leader: “the deal you did is now being described as the cowardice and surrender agreement”.
Mr Martin, who’s attending a side-meeting in Brussels of the EU summit with ALDE umbrella group allies, rejected the claims and insisted he was right to have put the country first.
“I’ve spoken to many, many, TDs,” he said. “John [McGuinness] made his vision clear month ago, in fact from the outset I think he was against confidence and supply.
“I respect his opinion but the majority of the party in the conversations I’ve had were supportive of the stance I took. Of course, not everybody is happy in the heat of raw political battle in terms of wanting to contest and wanting to engage.
“But, since Brexit happened, politics has been overshadowed by the implications and it’s out of that reality the decision we have taken has been based,” Mr Martin said.
“I stand by my decision” to extend the confidence and supply deal until spring 2020, adding “you’ve got to take the overall view”.
Asked if he is gambling on the public ultimately thanking him for putting country-before-party when a general election eventually arrives, Mr Martin said “I’m not a gambler” and added he did not have a “poker face”.
Meanwhile, at a separate EU summit media briefing, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed he has given no “promises” to Fianna Fáil as part of the agreed extension.
While stressing he did not think the country would thank either party for causing an election at this time, Mr Varadkar said he would not rule out a snap election before the spring 2020 deal concluded.
“I can’t guarantee it because it’s not my call, Fianna Fáil could still pull the plug that could arise, but I don’t see any indications of them doing that,” the Taoiseach said.
“I cannot give you that absolute guarantee, but I can certainly say it’s not my intention to cause an election because it’s my strong belief we have work to do around Brexit.”