Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators will be asked to give up their phones for think-in

Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators will be asked to give up their phones in a bid to avoid leaks from the party’s much-anticipated think-in in Cavan.

aoiseach Micheál Martin is likely to face an open, frank and robust reception from some of his TDs and Senators at the pre-Dáil term gathering in the Slieve Russel Hotel.

A lengthy discussion on a long-awaited report into last year’s general election campaign, carried out by Minister Seán Fleming and published late last night, will kick off the two-day event.

Members expect the debate to last late into Thursday night.

Fianna Fáil chair Brendan Smith will propose that parliamentary party members put aside their phones for the duration of the meeting in a bid to avoid leaks. Several TDs had already proposed such a move.

“I am not going to issue edicts, I will put that to the meeting and I would be surprised if there wouldn’t be favour,” Mr Smith said.

Despite unease in Fianna Fáil over what some TDs believe is the Taoiseach’s failure to hold Fine Gael to account over the Katherine Zappone affair, several rebels are not pushing to oust Martin in the near-term and have publicly distanced themselves from a plot to oust the leader.

One of Mr Martin’s potential successors, Jim O’Callaghan, said on Wednesday he would not support a motion of no confidence in Mr Martin.

The Dublin Bay South TD told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne it would be a “great privilege” to succeed him but said there was no vacancy.

Mr O’Callaghan said he expects a “full and frank” exchange of views at the think-in.

He is among over a dozen Fianna Fáil TDs who some in the party believe would support a no confidence motion in Mr Martin if one is tabled.

But no such motion is likely at the two-day think-in and some other TDs linked to the nascent plot moved to distance themselves from it yesterday.

Dublin South-West TD John Lahart said he would “not be pushing or support” or supporting a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach.

He said the meeting “will be party focussed” and looking at “what kind of strategies we need to adopt to get ourselves back into centre stage”.

Longford-Westmeath TD Joe Flaherty said “the time isn’t right” for a heave.

“There are too many big issues. In fairness Micheál Martin has done very well. It’s not doing Fianna Fáil any favours at this point in time, we’re a people first party and country first party and at this point in time it’s country first,” he said.

Another TD who has been linked to supporting a motion of no confidence, Cork East’s James O’Connor, said the think-in was an important opportunity to resolve issues around Fianna Fáil’s electoral performance.

“It’s important that we start to establish a path about how we recover our position with the electorate and identify the important measures we need to take to make that happen, in particular how to appeal to younger voters. I don’t want the meeting to be about issues with Fine Gael and its performance in government,” he said.

Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill said only that he was looking forward to the meeting and the chance to address his concerns.

“The main question is what are we standing for as Fianna Fáil, that’s the main question we need to talk about tomorrow. We need to be focussed on the next election and now and not on the last one,” he said.

Former agriculture minister Barry Cowen is expected to outline his own analysis of Fianna Fáil’s recent performance in the Dublin Bay South by-election.

It is understood the Offaly TD will argue that historic low vote share of 4.6pc cannot be viewed in isolation and that based on the last three general elections it would leave Fianna Fáil on 15pc nationally, putting many sitting TDs at risk, at the next election.

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