CLARE Fianna Fáil councillors has expressed their fury over the decision to effectively grant the government at least another year in office, claiming people have been “let down”.
The decision by Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin to extend the controversial Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Fine Gael for another 12 months to provide political stability in view of the chaos in Westminister has sparked a major backlash from some local councillors.
Deputy Martin has stated Fianna Fáil couldn’t risk four months of uncertainty in the run up to a General Election and a length process to form a new government in the interest of the economy.
However, a Clare Champion survey of local FF councillors have revealed the majority of them are opposed to the one-year extension.
Acknowledging that the uncertainty generated by Brexit is a major concern, Councillor Tony O’Brien said he was “disgusted and disappointed” by this decision.
“This decision has let down the party, people and me as a political representative. This is not about party politics, it is about the ability to give an honest representation to people who vote for me.
“I don’t know how anyone can support this arrangement. I am disappointed that Fianna Fáil didn’t negotiate better measures that could be put in place to solve the housing and health crisis,” he said.
At the recent Fianna Fáil Selection Convention for the Killaloe Municipal District, Councillor O’Brien recalled that he and Deputy Pat Hayes requested Deputy Timmy Dooley and Deputy Sean Fleming to express their opposition to any future extension of the deal, which unfortunately “fell on deaf ears” when it was passed on to party headquarters.
Acknowledging that a short-term extension was necessary to provide political stability, Councillor Hayes expressed his disappointment with the lack of detail concerning measures that were agreed between the two parties to tackle the lack of housing, health services and investment in rural Ireland.
Stating Fianna Fáil were getting the “worst of both worlds”, he said FF seemed to be getting a disproportionate blame for government failures and not enough public recognition for their policy initiatives that had made a difference.
Efforts to contact Deputy Dooley proved unsuccessful.
Councillor P J Kelly said Deputy Martin should have committed to the arrangement until the Brexit crisis had ended, which could happen in a few months.
“Micheál Martin forfeited his right to negotiate on certain contentious issues, which were of concern to Fianna Fáil. He did a good job by not upsetting the government during the Brexit crisis but giving Fine Gael a ‘blank cheque’ wasn’t on and was a bad idea.
“The general view from FF grassroots is that Micheál Martin was offside. There was a lack of consultation with the grassroots and a lot of party members are disillusioned with what is happening.
“There seems to be a small clique running Fianna Fáil at the moment,” he said.
Fianna Fáil General Election candidate, Councillor Cathal Crowe supported the extension but expressed reservations about the length of time given to back Fine Gael on substantive issues.
Councillor Crowe acknowledged the Fianna Fáil membership wanted an election in the short to medium term, non-political people welcomed the extension and while he was ready to face the electorate, he added political stability was vital to cope with the negative Brexit fallout.
However, the Meelick Councillor stressed Fianna Fáil still should have a number of red line issues such as the restoration of post offices and the provision of affordable housing, which should result in revoking the agreement if they were not being delivered.
Fianna Fáil General Election candidate Rita McInerney said she understood why the extension was given in the interest of providing political stability and putting the country first in the wake of all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
Acknowledging that some local FF members were not happy with the length of the extension, Ms McInerney said it should have been based when Brexit came to a conclusion rather than being based on a calendar year, which was too long.
If the extension delivers certain Fianna Fáil objectives such as more balanced regional development and services for rural Ireland, more affordable housing and improved health services, it may not hinder efforts to win two seats in Clare.
The former Chamber chief executive officer confirmed she had received calls from local FF supporters who were very unhappy while others felt it was done in the national interest.
While Councillor Michael Hillery agreed with the extension, he felt one year “is too long”.
Councillor Bill Chambers pointed out Deputy Martin was “dammed if he did, and dammed if he didn’t” in relation to extending the current agreement, which he felt was very close to the operation of a national FF/FG national government.
The length of the extension was criticised by Councillor Richard Nagle, who stated the housing and health crisis doesn’t seem to be addressed under the new or existing arrangement.
Councillor Nagle expressed concern the extension could hinder efforts to win two FF seats in Clare if the party are judged to be guilty of government failures “by association”.
“Fianna Fáil are not getting credit for being a responsible opposition and we are sharing the blame for government mishaps,” he said.
Councillor Pat Daly said FF members were not happy with the length of the extension and with media comments from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stating that FF couldn’t be trusted and shouldn’t be let back into power while at the same time accepting their support.
“Leo Varadkar can’t have it both ways. After the Brexit vote, I think it is time to hand Leo Varadkar his P45,” he said.
Councillor Tom McNamara supported the extension as he believes no one really knows how Brexit will impact on the economic and how long it will take to address its implications while Councillor Pat McMahon expressed similar views backing Deputy Martin’s decision.
Councillor Claire Colleran-Molloy said she supported the extension, particularly if Ireland has to deal with the economic tsunami of a hard Brexit but admitted a year may be too long.
Councillor Alan O’Callaghan said he didn’t believe that Brexit should be used as the main reason for extending the agreement as all the main political parties were singing off the same hymn sheet concerning measures that should be taken to minimise the potentially devastating impact of the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU.
Councillor O’Callaghan said he felt a six months extension would have been a better approach as this would be after the Local Elections and should be enough time for a decision to be made in relation to Brexit.