Irish Daily Mail

FF rancour at Micheál letting Leo off hook on hotel fiasco

- By Sharon McGowan Political Correspond­ent sharon.mcgowan@dailymail.ie

MORALE is at ‘rock bottom’ at grassroots level in Fianna Fáil with members left reeling that the Taoiseach rallied behind Leo Varadkar in the wake of the Merrion Hotel scandal, prominent backbench TDs have revealed.

The Fianna Fáil leader’s defence of the Tánaiste has created greater bitterness in his own party, with one TD saying that the fallout from the Katherine Zappone scandal made Mr Martin look like ‘a doormat’.

Breaking his silence in a statement on Saturday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the Tánaiste had ‘expressed his regret at attending the Merrion Hotel outdoor event’.

He added that while the event was not in breach of regulation­s, the Government accepted that ‘further clarity and consistenc­y’ on guidelines was needed.

Speaking to the Irish Daily Mail last night, one backbenche­r said that Mr Martin’s handling of the scandal could be a ‘big setback’ for the party in the polls.

‘The party feel let down, particular­ly by Martin’s uncompromi­sing defence of Leo,’ the TD said.

‘They feel as though Martin is just a doormat and that his sole objective is to stay in power.’

Mr Varadkar was among 50 guests at the party hosted by former minister Katherine Zappone at the five-star hotel on July 21 – an event that prompted the Attorney General to clarify the regulation­s around social gatherings in the following days.

The TD said the Taoiseach should have treated the controvers­y over the event the same way as Golfgate last year.

‘It was a great opportunit­y for us to distance ourselves and say what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,’ they said.

‘The same considerat­ion [as Golfgate] should apply. The alternativ­e to that would have been to say nothing and keep the head down, but we chose the worst option of all – to come out in full-blown defence of him.

‘There’s a bad feeling in Fianna Fáil and it will, in due course, have a destabilis­ing effect on the Government.’ He continued: ‘We’re doing badly in the polls after going into government with Fine Gael. After a succession of bad opinion polls and that horrible by-election in Dublin Bay South, the morale of the organisati­on is very, very low.’

Another backbenche­r also told of how tensions were rising among grassroots members after the events of recent weeks and particular­ly after Mr Martin’s defence of the Fine Gael leader in the wake of Merriongat­e.

‘Certainly at grassroots level, there’s a lot of anger and a lot of resentment,’ they said.

The Merrion Hotel scandal was also described as a ‘major mess’ by another TD, who maintained that the Taoiseach should have ‘reprimande­d’ Mr Varadkar for attending the event.

‘The Irish Government kept strict restrictio­ns in place for serious family events including funerals and weddings and this has caused serious consequenc­es with the public’s relationsh­ip with Fianna Fáil and the Government,’ they said.

Meanwhile, another TD said the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil were left open to the damage caused by the scandal after the Mr Martin’s ‘failure to deal with’ Simon Coveney’s appointmen­t of Katherine Zappone to the role of UN special envoy for freedom of expression and free speech – a job she turned down in the fallout of the scandal.

The Taoiseach was not told of the former Independen­t TD’s appointmen­t to the job – announced just days after her ‘farewell party’ – until the issue was raised in cabinet.

‘They feel Martin is just a doormat’ ‘Morale in party is very, very low’

 ??  ?? Fallout: Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Katherine Zappone
Fallout: Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Katherine Zappone
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