LONG-serving Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea has threatened to leave the party and run as an Independent rather than support another coalition government anchored by a confidence and supply deal.
O’Dea, who celebrated 40 years as Fianna Fáil TD last night, criticised party leader and Taoiseach Micheal Martin for extending a power-sharing deal with Fine Gael after the 2020 general election.
He said that this arrangement had alienated the party from its power-base.
“My understanding of a Confidence and Supply agreement is that their life expectancy is about 18 months to two years. Michael Martin signed up for three years. That was a bad mistake,” he declared.
“His second mistake was that, even though the agreement had lasted almost three years, the 2019 local elections came along and we did surprisingly well, and Sinn Féin did surprisingly badly. That was the time to cut the confidence and supply agreement off and go to the people.
“By sheer luck, we had survived for more than two years without losing popularity, which was an achievement in itself. We were lucky our supporters tolerated this.
“I wouldn’t consider Conor McGregor as any kind of intellectual, but his attitude would be when you get a fella down, don’t let him get up. Micheal Martin seems to have a different mentality to Conor McGregor, so not only did we allow Sinn Fein to get up, but we allowed them plenty of time to reorganise and figure out what went wrong.
“We have lost ground by being undistinguishable from Fine Gael as a result of staying too long in ‘Confidence and Supply’. We’ve decided to coalesce with Fine Gael, so there is a probability that we could lose more ground.
“If we do lose more ground and the party was again proposing to go into coalition with anybody, I wouldn’t be voting for that coalition,” he said.
“It would mean that I would have to go against the party. I’d have to resign from the party at that stage, if that situation came about. I would have to become an Independent TD.
“I’d change over and I’d leave the party at that stage, if I was being whipped into voting for another coalition, having done badly in this one,” he added.
His comments will be a blow to the Fianna Fáil party which has struggled to maintain popularity with voters after its catastrophic performance in the 2011 general election when it lost 57 seats.
He said Fianna Fáil needs a total reboot to reorganise itself and a few years on the opposition benches would do his party “enormous good”.
“I think Fianna Fáil needs to get back into opposition. I wouldn’t be part of a government with any other party. Even if I stand again and am elected as a Fianna Fáil TD, I wouldn’t support the party if they were in coalition with anybody else. I would oppose that; that’s being as honest as I can with you.”
“I think that another term in government would be the finish of Fianna Fáil, and I think the figures in the next election will prove that.”
He said he doesn’t see his party improving on its performance in the 2020 election when it was left dangling between power-sharing and the opposition benches with just one more seat than Sinn Fein.
“Fianna Fáil has been mauled as a result of being in confidence and supply, and all the indications are that they will be mauled further by the experience of being in coalition government”.
“Supporters have deserted the party because we are intermingled with Fine Gael, and if you’re to entice those supporters back, the last thing you want to do is put in one of the present ministers as party leader because people would see it as more of the same”.
The Limerick TD, who has served as Defence Minister, said Fianna Fáil has never fully recovered from Tribunals into alleged corruption that rocked the party in the 1990s.
“The stuff that came out of Tribunals, the looking for money and accepting money and all that. The foundations of Fianna Fail’s difficulties today derive directly from that period.”