On Tuesday evening, between budget votes, Micheál Martin paid a rare visit to the Dáil members’ bar. His former junior secretary, Robert Troy, who resigned last month in a cloud of controversy, had just bought a round of drinks for about half a dozen Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators. He proceeded to pinch a pint for the Taoiseach.
artin stayed for almost an hour and, according to those present, treated himself to a round. The mood was good, even among those who are considered critics of the Fianna Fáil boss. “[Fianna Fáil TDs] Jackie Cahill and Pádraig O’Sullivan were like the Praetorian Guard, they beat guys away,” claimed one viewer.
Such a characterization would be disputed by both Cahill and O’Sullivan, neither of whom are considered close allies of Martin. But there was no point in being sullen after announcing a €11 billion budget package that was well received in his constituencies.
“The mood was very good,” said a TD who was in the bar on Tuesday. “Sure, if we weren’t in a good mood to bring in a budget of 11 billion euros…” Another of those present said the Taoiseach “was there to show that it was a good day for him”.
There is little argument to Fianna Fáil that the boom-time budget marked a good day for the coalition and its constituent parties. “It’s a very good budget, to be fair,” said one TD who is privately most critical of Martin. “It’s resourceful and well-targeted to those in need and to the services.”
Whether there will be a political dividend from what was announced on Tuesday remains to be seen. The first evidence in today’s Ireland Thinks survey of the Sunday independent is that there is an almost imperceptible budget boost for the two major coalition parties.
There is nervousness within the coalition that any budget gains for households will be wiped out by this winter’s energy bills. For this reason, no one has ruled out further financial interventions in the new year. In fact, it was acclaimed by Tánaist Leo Varadkar within hours of the budget being announced.
While ruling out a mini-budget in January, the Taoiseach said yesterday the introduction of more measures would remain “under consideration”.
Much will likely depend on how bad household utility bills get this winter. Some in Fianna Fáil believe that Sinn Féin was strategically wrong in proposing an energy price cap.
“What happened in the UK has hit Sinn Féin very hard,” claims a party source. “That’s what Liz Truss tried and she created massive uncertainty, she put the taxpayer on the hook with the cap.”
That analysis could prove true, but Sinn Féin continues to successfully identify where the coalition is weak, and housing construction — where the number of people classified as homeless is now reaching record levels — will be a focus of the Mary Lou McDonald’s in the coming months. be partying
Eoin Ó Broin, spokesman for Sinn Féin Housing, announced yesterday that he would table a motion in the Dáil next week to scrap the government’s plan for a concrete block levy. The move is likely to put pressure on backbenchers in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who publicly criticized the proposal last week. Although the prospect of any of them going overboard seems unlikely this weekend.
In fact, the mood in Fianna Fáil as she gathered for her Ard Fheis on the RDS could be described as even. Talk of Martin’s leadership is, as one TD put it, “gone to bed” for now. Predictions, including from the likes of Barry Cowen on these pages 22 months ago, that Martin would not become Tánaiste in December of this year have proved far off the mark.
Also this weekend, Martin has stated his intention to lead Fianna Fáil to the next election, even going so far as to suggest that he might return to the office of the Taoiseach after that election. “Oh yes I do,” he said yesterday when asked if he foresaw Fianna Fáil next in office.
Fianna Fáil leader cites evidence from across Europe in consecutive media appearances that parties with 25 percent or 26 percent are now key players in government. “That’s where Ireland is now in terms of a multi-party system of proportional representation. This means that Fianna Fáil will be involved in the future. I think there are too many superficial comments about the party,” he told journalists on Friday night.
At the same event, Martin – who is known to be fond of explaining how much he ignores the polls – said that Fianna Fáil was 24 per cent in the last poll, although he appeared to be referring to a survey of behavior and attitudes towards them Sunday times in May.
Martin’s optimism about his future as party leader is partly due to the fact that those mentioned as possible successors show no immediate signs of change.
At the Future of Ireland event yesterday at the 3 Arena, a potential future leader, Jim O’Callaghan, said he would like to be the Taoiseach of a united Ireland. But that’s not exactly a short-term goal.
It may have been a strategic move by the Taoiseach to let it be known on Friday that Darragh O’Brien would not be removed from the Housing Department in December, thereby securing his position in Cabinet for another two years. No other minister has received such assurances, although few expect anyone other than Michael McGrath – another potential contender for the leadership – to become Treasury secretary in December’s reshuffle.
That prospect has fueled a simmering row between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael after Leo Varadkar said last month that there was no more important position in the world for an Irishman than the Eurogroup chair held by Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe.
This weekend Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley, co-chair of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) grouping, said Mr Varadkar was wrong in making such a claim.
“I continue to believe that the most important role we had in Europe was that of former commissioner Phil Hogan and I am still puzzled by how Fine Gael capitulated to Ursula von der Leyen on this matter,” he said.
“It is also somewhat arrogant of Fine Gael to expect their candidate to be re-elected because of the position [of Eurogroup chair] is standing for re-election in January for a further two years.”
Dooley pointed out that a Fianna Fáil finance minister, even as a full member of the Eurogroup, would be linked to the finance ministers of France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands under the ALDE/Renew Europe banner.
“His behind-the-scenes dialogue and interaction with them will give him a critical approach, even before attending Eurogroup meetings. There is significant access to key people, that’s where strategies are designed and developed for the benefit of the country,” he said.
Speaking at the RDS yesterday, Martin declined to comment on the future of other members of the Cabinet, particularly Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly, who observers see as the most vulnerable.
However, apart from a few close confidants, no one really knows Martin’s thoughts on these matters and the depth of a cast he plans in December.
A longtime party figure pointed to the Taoiseach’s track record. “If Micheál Martin is loyal, he doesn’t cut his throat, he wouldn’t do anything for it,” they said.
Whilst speaking to the media yesterday, Martin was once challenged over his decision not to attend the Ireland’s Future event which featured O’Callaghan, Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald yesterday. He didn’t regret it, he emphasized and explained: “I’m completely self-confident.”
It was a revealing insight into the mindset of the Taoiseach and new Tánaists as they face the next phase of the Coalition and, if he has his way, beyond.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/emboldened-by-a-well-received-budget-taoiseach-has-tightened-his-grip-on-party-leadership-42032954.html Emboldened by a well-spent budget, Taoiseach has tightened his grip on party leadership