Tánaiste claims no division in government despite ‘woke gallery’ comments from Limerick TD

Tanaiste Micheál Martin

THE Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil party leader, Micheal Martin, this evening played down clams by veteran party colleague, Willie O’Dea TD, that Fianna Fáil was playing to a “woke gallery” instead of focusing on housing, health, and crime crises.

Deputy O’Dea also hit out the government’s proposed hate speech bill should be scrapped.

The Limerick TD told the RTÉ’s News at One radio programme that he did not personally support his party leadership’s campaign for a ‘Yes-Yes’ vote in last Friday’s referendums on family and care. He publicly stated that he himself voted against ratifying the 39th and 40th amendments to the Constitution on Friday.

Earlier today, a post on Deputy O’Dea’s X (formerly Twitter) account said that “Fianna Fáil needs to get back to basics and abandon the Hate Speech Bill”.

Deputy O’Dea said the party should instead “focus on housing, health, and law and order and stop playing to the woke gallery”.

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”Start listening to the people, stop talking down to them,and stop listening to the out of touch Greens and NGOs,” Deputy O’Dea wrote.

In recent days the Limerick TD has also suggested, in contrast to the government’s view, that at least one of four 24-hour accident and emergency departments that were closed in Limerick, Clare, and north Tipperary under a coalition government involving Fianna Fáil in 2009 and reconfigured to University Hospital Limerick should be reopened to try to alleviate persistent overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick.

This evening (Monday), Deputy O’Dea stood alongside his party leader Micheál Martin, and Fianna Fáil Deputy Niall Collins, together with Dee Ryan, former chief executive of Limerick Chamber whose resignation from the business body was announced earlier today, as they officially endorsed Ms Ryan as Fianna Fail’s only candidate for the upcoming mayoral elections in Limerick.

When asked if it was an embarrassing time to be in government, given the fractious concerns highlighted by Deputy O’Dea, as well as last Sunday’s referendum result, Mr Martin replied: “Absolutely not.”

He said there had been “overreacting or over-interputing” of the referral result by some people.

The Tánaiste conceded there were “certainly lessons” to reflect on following the outcome, but he was “comfortable with the people making a decision”.

Mr Martin said that, in his opinion, the resounding ‘No’ vote result was not a vote of “dissatisfaction” with the government.

“I don’t accept it was a message to government, I think it was very much a message on the proposition that was put before the people,” he said.

He said Fianna Fáil has “maintained it’s focus on key issues, particularly on housing”, and that the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien “has worked extremely well” on trying to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis.

“We have been non-stop on the housing agenda, we did exceed targets last year and we want to exceed them this year. We need to do more obviously in terms of increasing the overall volume.”

Mr Martin said he did not believe the referendum results had any implications for the cohesiveness of the government, nor did he believe it had led to division within government

He reiterated that he accepted the decision of the people who voted last Friday and that he was not going to engage in the “blame game” over the outcome.

However, the Tánaiste declined to comment when asked what he thought of Deputy O’Dea’s earlier comments on social media.

Laughing off the question, Mr Martin replied: “Myself and Willie meet on regular occasions and no doubt we will meet again, we are just here now, and I’m not going to have (that) conversation.”

Deputy O’Dea declined to say anything further about his controversial social media comments about his party in front of his party leader, and instead took the opportunity to offer his full support for Ms Ryan as Fianna Fail’s mayoral candidate.

Mr Martin described Ms Ryan as an “outstanding candidate” with the ambition and vision that Limerick required into the future.