Fianna Fáil rebel TDs demand review of coalition agreement in new blow to Micheál Martin

Dissident Fianna Fáil TDs worried about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis are demanding a review of the deal underpinning the coalition put in place two years ago.

he call, backed by a large group of backbenchers, is a further blow to the leadership of Taoiseach Micheál Martin. It will also increase tensions with the coalition partners, Fine Gael and the Green Party.

Fianna Fáil TD and former minister Willie O’Dea said the Programme for Government signed off in late June 2020 has been overtaken by spiralling prices and hit by “serious blockages” preventing implementation of government promises.

He said the agreement with Fine Gael and the Green Party needs a total review to redirect the working of government.

Other leading Fianna Fáil TDs have backed Mr O’Dea’s call, including Dublin deputies Jim O’Callaghan, seen as a potential future leader, and John Lahart, who  said the circumstances in which the Programme for Government was agreed have “changed utterly”.

In a sign of rising tensions with the Green Party in particular, Mr O’Dea warned that the pace of reducing carbon emissions to tackle climate change must be slowed to protect jobs.

His comments also point to flashpoints with Fine Gael over tax cuts versus targeted welfare increases and keeping the pension age at 66.

Mr O’Dea signalled a fear that the very existence of the party in which he has served as a TD for 41 years is under threat.

“Fianna Fáil is getting lost in government, and its impact in government is lost on the Irish people,” he said. “What we have achieved for the Irish people seems to be a better-kept secret than the third secret of Fatima. The opinion polls bear this out.”

Recent polls have shown Fianna Fáil dangerously close to the level of its 2011 meltdown, falling to only 17 TDs and on the brink of extinction.

Limerick City TD Mr O’Dea said the fallout from Covid since summer 2020 threw up fresh problems causing supply chain difficulties and feeding inflation to a 40-year high.

This was gravely worsened by the war in Ukraine, and there are now fears of recession.

Mr O’Dea said Green Party demands on the pace of carbon emission cuts would not only devastate farmers, they would put up to 60,000 agri-food jobs in jeopardy.

He said Mr Martin’s pledge of keeping the pension age at 66 appeared to be contradicted by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe only days later.

“We in Fianna Fáil badly need to tie that issue of pensions down,” Mr O’Dea said.

Dublin South West TD Mr Lahart said: “No one anticipated Covid might still be with us, and at the time of signing [the Programme for Government], a vaccine had not been discovered.

There was no war in Ukraine, with its appalling humanitarian consequences and subsequent impact on European countries including Ireland, and there were no inflationary concerns.

“There is an urgent need to rethink the programme to reflect the changing circumstances we face. It’s a very reasonable ask.”

Mr O’Callaghan echoed that view, saying: “There has been such remarkable change since June 2020 that it is obvious there should be a review in the autumn of the Programme for Government.

“It was never envisaged at the time the programme was entered into that there would be inflation of nearly 10pc or a war in Europe. Those factors must be taken into account by the Government in planning for the remainder of its term.”

Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cúiv said his belief that Fianna Fáil should never have gone into government with Fine Gael and the Green Party had not changed.

However, he doubted the value of a complete review of the agreement. “What we need is a focus on delivering basic services for people,” he said.

A large group of other Fianna Fáil TDs will support Mr O’Dea’s call.

Tipperary deputy Jackie Cahill favours a review, saying the Green Party is “too much focused on what we can’t do and not what we can do”.

Mr Cahill repeated the arguments that the economic landscape is utterly changed, requiring a new focus for Government.

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