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Micheál Martin rules out emergency ard fheis after fall in poll

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has ruled out holding an emergency conference amid election jitters among his party and after a damaging opinion poll.

Mr Martin also accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of engaging in political “games” and “chancing his arm” by seeking a general election in mid 2020.

Speaking in Donegal, Mr Martin addressed calls by disgruntled party TD John McGuinness for a national conference over continued support of Fine Gael in government under the confidence and supply agreement.

“There won’t be any meeting. There’s no need for one. I’ve met all our TDs, the bulk of them in the last two months. No one, including John McGuinness, bar yesterday, has articulated the need for a special ard fheis on anything. So let’s keep a bit of calm here.”

Mr Martin maintains that debate should centre on issues such as housing, health and the cost of living and not Fine Gael’s desire to set election dates.

“I’m not going to be governed by political manoeuvres by Fine Gael because I think the public is not interested in the bubble of Leinster House and the games that some politicians get up to. This is too serious.”

An opinion poll over the weekend put Fianna Fail on 21%, a two-year low. That is some 13 percentage points behind Fine Gael and just behind Sinn Fein which is on 22%.

Mr Martin insists his party have “given stability to the country in an unprecedented way”. 

He accused Mr Varadkar of creating instability by leaking to the media and pushing for election dates.

“There’s no carte blanche, no blank cheque for any political party to stay in office by their own design.”

“It’s about issues, it’s about delivery, it’s about delivering for people. That’s the yardstick by which we will be governed. We have been very constructive.”

Pressed on what was discussed at a face-to-face meeting between himself and Mr Varadkar in Kerry last week — and the Taoiseach’s suggestion of agreeing to hold the next general election in mid-2020 — Mr Martin said: “[2020] was thrown out at the meeting last Thursday, it wasn’t discussed. He threw it out but there wasn’t any serious discussion.

“There’s a bit of chancing the arm going on there. The real discussion was on the budget, difficult decisions will have to be taken on the budget. And Brexit obviously and the referendums which may or may not happen.”

 

“So for the Taoiseach then to leak one aspect of that betrays and illustrates a certain dimension as to how he operates. It’s all about optics, it’s all about spinning. It’s all about.. .there’s a lack of substance there.”

Mr Martin also insisted he wasn’t worried about the latest opinion poll.

“No, not at all. If I was to become obsessed by opinion polls, that would impinge on strategy. We don’t bother with the machinations of polls — they go up, they go down — because they’re not really reflective of our plan, they don’t really impact on how we strategically go about preparing for the next general election whenever it happens.”