A LARGE amount of disaffected grassroots Fianna Fáil members in Donegal are part of a national grouping formed to strongly oppose a coalition government with Fine Gael.
While progress has slowed due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said earlier this week that the parties were close to agreeing a programme for government.
It emerged yesterday that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin would get the first term as Taoiseach as part of the arrangement.
However, there is growing opposition within the grassroots ranks of the Fianna Fáil party. A group calling itself Cosmhuintir Fianna Fáil has grown rapidly nationwide.
Cosmhuintir Fianna Fáil wrote to Mr Martin and other members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party earlier this month and in the last week has extended the letter of discontent to all elected Fianna Fáil representatives.
Donegal Town’s Susan Meehan and Sinead O’Donnell, a member of the Killybegs Cumann, are two of the members of a group they say now has hundreds of members.
“We felt that a lack of identity was a running theme in the campaign for the General Election,” Ms Meehan, a told Donegal Daily.
“We canvassed every doorstep in the country under the promise that we would not go back into a coalition with Fine Gael.
“We are dismayed with some decisions from leadership in terms of talking to people. We should be more inclusive and respect what the electorate voted for.”
Ms Meehan believes that the outbreak of Covid-19 has ‘changed everything – socially, economically and politically’. She said: “The best option would be a national government and have everyone around the table.
“We came together in this group because of the election results. We feel that if such a government, a coalition with Fine Gael, comes to pass that Fianna Fáil will be the big losers.”
Ms Meehan says the group contains a ‘substantial number of loyal party activists’.
She said: “The grassroots members are not getting their opinions heard and are being ignored by the hierarchy of the party. We have around 200 members now, all loyal Fianna Fáil members from all areas of Ireland, and we have a wide-range from Ógra members to life-long party members. We just want the grassroots members’ voices to be heard.
“We have got a positive response so far. We have got a great response from some members within the parliamentary party.”
Cosmhuintir Fianna Fáil claims to have support behind the scenes from four members of the Fianna Fáil Ard Chomairle and ten county councillors across the country.
In the recent General Election, Fianna Fáil took 37 seats in Dáil Éireann, including the automatically-elected Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, a drop from the 44 seats won by the party in 2016.
In the Donegal constituency, Fianna Fáil was left reeling with the loss of veteran Pat The Cope Gallagher from the Dáil.
The re-emergence of Niall Blaney, this week elected to the Seanad, has been seen as a positive for the party locally. In an interview with Donegal Daily earlier this week, Senator Blaney – an experienced politician former TD who withdrew his candidacy from the 2011 General Election just weeks before polling day – said one of his immediate aims was to build the party ‘up again with purpose and unity in Donegal’.
In a wide-ranging letter delivered to the senior party members, Cosmhuintir Fianna Fáil say that a possible coalition arrangement with Fine Gael has ‘incensed many members of the part who have been loyal and committed Fianna Fail activists.’
The letter, signed ‘Fianna Fáil Grassroots Voices 2020’ said: “As a party, we have been severely damaged by several years of sacrificing our party’s ideals in the interests of ‘confidence and supply’ and the honourable attempt to act ‘in the best interests of the people of Ireland’.
“For this, we have seen little or no gratitude from Fine Gael, who have, even during those four years, frequently mocked and vilified us.”
The group said they felt the Fianna Fáil brand had been ‘contaminated’ by its association with the last government.
The letter said: “The electorate took their revenge and we are left with a result that could see the total decimation of Fianna Fáil if we do not make the right decision in the formation of a new government.”
The group say that they are ‘vehemently opposed to any alignment with Fine Gael’ and expressed what they called a ‘deep disillusionment’ with the direction of the party.
They said: ”We have suffered enough and we cannot stand idly by without voicing our deepest opposition to any alliance with those who could never wish to share our Fianna Fáil values.
“We appeal to members of the parliamentary party not to enter a coalition with Fine Gael and, instead, pursue a huge drive to revitalise the party.
“It is time to say ‘Stop’ and arrest our dwindling fortunes and, as a matter of urgency, seek a unique identity for Fianna Fáil on the Irish political landscape – an identity that was forged in 1926 and has been allowed to slip almost into oblivion in the recent history of the party.”
The parliamentary party was urged to consult the party members shop before making any decision on government formation.Tags: