FF ardfheis

Live coverage of the Fianna Fáil ardfheis

Harry McGee, Mary Minihan Fri, Apr 26
LIVE: FF ardfheis

Sort by:

  • Latest first
  • Oldest first
  • This event has now ended
  • 16:31
    Hi. This is Harry McGee. My colleague Mary Minihan and I will be blogging live from the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis this weekend.
  • 16:37
    Harry McGee The conference will open in the next hour or so. The key event tonight will be the opening speech of Micheál Martin to the gathering. Already today he has come under attack from Taoiseach Enda Kenny who asserted he has never fully acknowledged the "toxic" legacy of Fianna Fáil. Expect both parties to accuse each other of cynicism and opportunism all weekend I have already posted a piece on five key Ard Fheis moments from the past on irishtimes.com. We will bring you regular updates as they occur when it all kicks off later.
  • 17:27
    Hi Mary Minihan here...I've just strolled down the delightful Anglesea Road in Dublin and into the RDS where the 74th Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis is getting underway. Myself and my colleague Harry McGee will be updating you on events as they happen here. We're standing by for the arrival of party leader Micheal Martin...
  • 17:52
    So Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin has just spoken to the media ahead of the ard fheis getting underway. He's promised a "dynamic" event. He stressed that this with be the first ard fheis where everybody will be voting on the new "one member one vote" system. He said the party had over 80 local representatives working in communities across the country. The ard fheis will look at how the party can "empower" the members of the organisation to elect a leader in the future.
  • 17:54
    Micheal Martin also said the party will debate a motion on the possibility of going into government with another party in future. Such a decision would be ratified at a special conference of members of Fianna Fáil convened for that purpose. Mortgage arrears crisis will be a focus of the weekend, he said. The jobs crisis, crime and justice will also be on the party's agenda.
  • 17:57
    The Fianna Fáil leader responded to Taoiseach Enda Kenny's criticism of his party earlier today. (Speaking at the fifth report of the Action Plan for Jobs in Dublin this morning, Mr Kenny said Fianna Fáil had left a “legacy of devastation” and their economic policies will never be forgotten) Mr Martin said it was characteristic of the Government, when it was on "very weak ground", to go on the attack in an "old-style" political way. Mr Martin said the Coalition's performance on jobs had been poor. "Remember this is the Government that promised 100,000 jobs before the last election...today he unbelievable gave himself an A grade in terms of the employment issue." Many families across the country would beg to differ, Mr Martin suggested.
  • 18:08
    "I think it's ironic that a leader of a Government of broken promises starts talking about trust in politics," Mr Martin says. He accused Mr Kenny of having "a domestic story and an international story". A spicy question was thrown in from a reporter: "What grade would you give him (Enda Kenny)?" Think he said E minus.
  • 18:15
    Wee break to watch the TV news there...Michael Martin was obviously asked about the abortion issue. He said there were different strands of opinion with the party. "We accept that there has to be legal clarity for the medical community in relation to protecting the life of the mother in pregnancy while protecting the life of the unborn as well but priority has to be given in terms of protecting the life of the mother." He said Fianna Fáil wants to see the legislation before taking a decision on whether to support it or not, but continued to say the party would have a "constructive" approach.
  • 18:17
    Asked if he personally throught the threat of suicide should be included, Mr Martin said: "It's not what I personally think". He said: "The issue is in terms of the suicide threat, in terms of how you legislate for that, do you inadvertedly build a situation where you have abortion on demand or open the floodgates."

    Fianna Fáil was being reasonable when it said it wanted to see the legislation before taking a view, he said.
  • 18:18
    Still on the issue of abortion, Mr Martin said the situation had evolved from 10 years ago. It was too sensitive and serious an issue to play politics. It was important to bear in mind that the Constitutional prohibition on abortion in the country remained in place.
  • 18:22
    Mr Martin also told assembled reporters that no-one could seriously suggest that one political party (that being the one he now leads) was responsible for the global economic crisis - which he claimed the Taoiseach attempted to suggest this morning.

    He was asked about the motion demanding that TDs who did not stand for the party last time should not be allowed to stand at the next election. He said he wasn't aware of anyone who wanted to do so (!) It would be a matter for the members of the organisation through their selection conventions to pick the candidates.

    "The good news is that we're getting a lot of younger people into the party." (There will be a big stress on this this weekend).
  • 18:23
    Asked if former taoiseach Brian Cowen would attend the ard fheis tomorrow, Mr Martin said it was open to any member to attend. "He was here last year."
  • 18:27
    Mr Martin says his main objective is to engineer the renewal of the party by attracting a new generation into Fianna Fáil "That's the main issue for me. Going into government on its own right is no longer the driving agenda in the sense that there's no point in being in Government for the sake of it or holding an office for the sake of it." Interesting.

    Although he couldn't resist saying: "If it happens, so be it".
  • 18:28
    My colleague Dan O'Brien wrote a very interesting piece about the Icelandic Independent Party which suffered a terrible electoral trashing following its equally spectacular crash. Like Fianna Fáil it was the dominant political player since the island became independent. It has staged a big recovery since then (and Iceland experienced protests, an electoral crisis and a constitutional crisis of a much bigger magnitude than Ireland). While it may not be the biggest party after the election, it may provide the prime minister. There's an old cliche beloved of the political class that goes eaten bread is soon forgotten. Well it's certain that the converse also applies... that there's a political Ariel that washes all misdeeds and policy stains whiter than white. Until less than a year ago practically all the commentariat were describing Micheal Martin as a temporary or caretaker leader of Fianna Fáil, that he would never become taoiseach. There is no certainty about that any more. I don't think he can ever shake off the toxic legacy in its entirety but there is strong evidence, both recent electoral and opinion poll, that people view him as a biddable leader. And for that reason, the leadership question is settled within Fianna Fáil for the foreseeable future. Taoiseach? I still think that Fianna Fáil are still six or seven years away from government unless they are forced into an unlikely coalition with Fine Gael in two or three years time. It's a long time and you wonder if Martin will stay on top for that long, especially if there are setbacks to the recovery. But then the same doubts surrounded Enda Kenny back in 2003. He too had almost a decade to wait but rose to the task seamlessly.
  • 18:30
  • 18:31
  • 18:32
  • 18:42
  • 18:49
    Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin will deliver his opening address to his party's ard fheis in 10 minutes or so...we'll keep you up to date on what he says when he says it...
  • 19:00
    Familiar faces at the ard fheis...Mary Hanafin
    Familiar faces at the ard fheis...Mary Hanafin
  • 19:08
    I'm in the Shelbourne Hall at the RDS awaiting Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin's opening address. Among those in the front row are former TD Sean Haughey and MEP Pat "the Cope" Gallagher...the hall is filling up...
  • 19:16
    Bertie Ahern's brother Maurice Ahern takes his seat in the Shelbourne Hall...
  • 19:20
    Former minister Mary Hanafin and former TD Margaret Conlon shake hands as they enter the hall...
  • 19:26
    Former TD and party whip John Curran takes his seat...beside Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick. Senator Thomas Byrne, the party's Meath East byelection candidate, is working the front row.
  • 19:29
    General secretary Sean Dorgan has taken to the stage...things are finally getting underway...
  • 19:32
  • 19:33
    There will be over 4,000 members here this weekend, Clare TD Timmy Dooley tells Fianna Fail members.
  • 19:35
    Dooley says the past year has been a positive one for the party. Praises Thomas Byrne's performance in the Meath East byelection..."confirming an increase in the party's popularity and a healthy sign for the future".

    However, the party knows much more work needs to be done in the coming years.
  • 19:37
    Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin opens his address by looking back to the last General Election, when the party suffered a serious defeat. "In the months afterwards I toured the country meeting every constituency organisation and thousands of our members.
    "We talked about what we had got wrong, what our party stands for and what our future should be.
    "The message was an absolutely clear one – Ireland needs a credible progressive republican alternative to the current government." Applause in the hall greets this message.
  • 19:38
    First mention of the party leader's favourite word: renewal. "The most important first phase in renewal was the implementation of the largest reform of the party’s rules since our foundation."
  • 19:39
    The party leader turns to the funding of the Fianna Fail.

    "We also agreed to a new model of raising the funds we need to represent our communities and fight elections. The changes we’ve implemented and the dedication of our members means that now over 90% of all our fundraising comes from donations of €50 or less," he says.

    "Today when people ask “who funds Fianna Fáil?” the answer is a very simple one – many thousands of our members and supporters do, and they do it through small donations, draw tickets and membership fees."
  • 19:39
    Micheal Martin says Fianna Fail's direct link with people was once its proudest boast and it must become "a more activist party" once again.
  • 19:40
    Most work has taken place away from the media spotlight, but he has no doubt it is having a major impact, Mr Martin says. Applause now for this line: "what you get from permanent campaigning is a government with an unprecedented majority elected on the basis of promises it never intended keeping".

  • 19:41
  • 19:42
    Micheál Martin has started speaking and is already in attack mode, berating Government for broken promises. Period of purdah for Fianna Fain officially over.
  • 19:42
    People are now willing to engage with the party on the doorsteps, Micheal Martin says. "But there is no room for complacency". Turns to the Coalition partner now: "They don’t believe that anybody has the right to challenge them. They think that they can just keep rerunning the last general election and everything will be fine for them.
    "Well their rising unpopularity and falling support shows that the public is not interested in their politics as usual – it wants parties which are focused on responding to the issues of today and the future."
    Martin insists Fianna Fail is not trying to restore the "old political balance". He says this twice.

  • 19:43
    "We will consider a motion to hand over to members the final say on whether Fianna Fáil joins a coalition and on any programme for government we sign up to in the future," Mr Martin says. But "our core business this weekend is not about rules changes"...it's about having serious discussions about the most important issues facing the country, he says.

  • 19:44
    Mr Martin explains his "constructive" approach. "From the first day of the Dáil we have adopted a constructive approach. We have been consistent in our support for bringing the deficit down and have not opposed reasonable measures to achieve this.
    "But we will not be silent in the face of this government’s record. We will not let them away with their growing list of broken promises.
    "We will not shy away from tackling them on policies which are causing huge damage to the social fabric of many communities."
  • 19:45
    Accuses Fine Gael and Labour of spinning and briefing against each other. Mr Martin scorns the Taoiseach's award of an A-grade for the Government's job creation record (laughter in the hall, and claps).
  • 19:45
    Contrasts the fiscal approach of the current Government and the last: "the decisions of the previous government were progressive and as fair as possible – while this Fine Gael and Labour’s biggest policy decision has been a decisive move to target cuts and taxes disproportionately against those who can afford them least". Cue applause from the audience.
  • 19:47
    Mr Martin turns his attention to the Minister for Health James Reilly - the key target of his speech. He stresses unbroken promises.
    "On James Reilly’s second day in office he announced that he would be scrapping prescription fees yet he has proceeded to double them. He announced that he was extending free GP care, yet he is actually limiting access.
    "Today James Reilly is the last person left in the country who believes the health system is experiencing anything other than a sharp decline."
  • 19:47
    Here's the killer line: "The only list James Reilly has actually improved is the one for a new primary care centre in his own constituency." Enthusiastic response from the crowd to that one.
  • 19:49
    Cuts to home help hours highlighted. "Never lower" morale in the health system blamed on Government's approach. What is Fianna Fail proposing? "A core principle of a fairer system should be the introduction of a single, unified waiting list for public hospitals, with medical need being the one and only criteria for treatment."
  • 19:51
    Mr Martin says that in response to Minister Reilly’s "damaging changes", Fianna Fail is going to offer a "constructive, credible and costed alternative". The party's analysis will be published before the summer. "We will do everything to stand against the mounting chaos which is directly traceable to bad political decisions and destructive plans."
  • 19:52
    Now Mr Martin turns to the Government's pledges on political reform. "Anyone who follows the business of the Dáil can see a government which is arrogantly pushing through its business and refuses to answer even basic questions." Government is not willing to give up any element of its control over parliament and debate, he says.

  • 19:53
    The Seanad referendum: "a major power grab by Government".
  • 19:54
    Mr Martin takes a position and calls for a No vote in the Seanad referendum. "We need a political system with a less controlling government which is genuinely open to parliamentary scrutiny.
    "They are proposing to give government more control and reduce scrutiny. I believe the people should reject this proposal and demand real reform."

  • 19:54
    In conclusion Mr Martin thanks the members for his re-election as Uachtarán Fhianna Fáil.
  • 19:55
    His concluding message gets a standing ovation. "We must be true to our founding values and show the people our way to recovery, our way to a fairer recovery.
    "That is our business at this Árd Fheis and it must be our business every day." Thumbs up to the crowd from Mr Martin.
  • 19:59
    Photographers await the FF leader...
    Photographers await the FF leader...
  • 19:59
    Fianna Fail teddy bears €6.95
    Fianna Fail teddy bears €6.95
  • 20:44
  • 20:50
    Pos087@hotmail.com Of course he wants to keep Seanad jobs for the boys same old same old ff
  • 20:50
    Brian Mahon (Laois) An increase in demand for brown envelopes and the air of denial around the RDS... it must be the Fianna Fáil ArdFhéis. I wonder will they be providing confessional booths for the members that have returned from the shadows?
  • 20:51
    Dara dreathair Looking forward to your blogs
  • 20:51
    Anto I hear there is an amateur comedy festival on down in the RDS this weekend!
  • 20:51
    Barry FF have become political spectators in the Oireachtais. Lots of pointing and pot-shots that no-one is listening to.
  • 20:51
    Paul Shame on all of ye for giving the people that sold out the people of ireland. Shame on all ff supporters
  • 21:03
    Friday nights of party conferences are a little like curtain-raisers at Croke Park. Interesting enough in their own way but not really telling of anything. I was researching the archives yesterday and today looking at Ard Fheiseanna from the past. What marked them all was the self-confidence and certainty (verging on arrogance) of the party. That changed after February 2011. Commentators like Noel Whelan (who's chairing a panel discussion as I write) predicted the demise of the party. Last year's Ard Fheis was a real test for it, to ascertain if the party indeed have a future. This year the atmosphere is different. Certainly after its mauling two years ago, the party is not returning to the kind of 'nouveau riche' vulgarity of the naughties. But it has certainly become emboldened again, that's for sure. And politics being politics, as an opposition party it will claim that it is pursuing a new politics and not resorting to any tired old rhetoric. And then you look at its attacks on the Government and they look a bit, ahem, like tired old rhetoric and old politics.
  • 21:08
    We are going to wrap up soon for tonight. There are four motions down on the clár tomorrow in relation to abortion and they will dominate the first part of the day. In his doorstep interview tonight, Mr Martin was very careful when asked about abortion, saying it was not his view that was important but the ultimate position that would be adopted by the party. It will be interesting to see the mood among delegates tomorrow. If the conference adopts a harder line, it will inform - but not dictate - the decision ultimately reached by the parliamentary party.