The scandalous actions of senior Fine Gael Ministers, and the lack of any action against them, are provoking anger among the government’s own supporters.
Ex-Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell said that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s attendance at a festival in London last weekend is “completely tone deaf” and said that she would not return to the party while it is under his leadership.
Varadkar appeared at an event in England similar in nature to the Electric Picnic, a popular Irish music and arts festival which was cancelled on government orders in order to combat Covid-19.
Large events in Ireland remain subject to contradictory restrictions. Music fans in particular have been infuriated by Varadkar’s decision to jet out to the ‘Mighty Hoopla’ festival in London while they remain subjected to unjust and authoritarian limits on their activities.
Speaking on RTÉ radio on Sunday, Ms O’Connell said the images of the Fine Gael leader attending the festival were “jarring”.
“I do think that the pictures, to my mind, show a serious lack of self-awareness, I think the week that’s in it and I think if you’re a policy maker making decisions that are affecting all of our lives, and then you leave the country within which you make those decisions for to have your jolly elsewhere, I think it’s jarring,” Ms O’Connell said.
She said that the public has been “culturally neutered” for the last 18 months.
“Maybe he didn’t mean any harm by it, but to my mind, you’d have to consider, how would you think that’s an ok thing to do?”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin defended his Fine Gael counterpart, but did not answer when asked if he would have attended such an event.
He also lashed out at critics of Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs Sinon Coveney, who is under pressure after fumbling questions over his approval of a bespoke ‘envoy’ post for US-based former Minister Katherine Zappone.
Coveney has admitted deleting text messages related to the appointment, preventing them from being seen by journalists under freedom of information rules.
Sinn Féin has called a motion of no confidence in the Minister. Cavan-Monaghan MP Matt Carthy said his party had taken the decision because the Taoiseach “refused and has failed to do his job” and hold Mr Coveney to account.
He described the actions taken by Coveney as “indefensible”, adding: “He has brought a narrative that is simply unbelievable and contradicted by all the available documents.
“We have heard lots of members of Fianna Fáil and other parties indicate they are not happy. Some have been front enough to accept it is an act of cronyism.”
Any Fianna Fáil TD who votes no confidence in Coveney, or abstains on the vote, is set to face a six-month suspension from the parliamentary party, the Taoiseach has said.
But many have insisted the situation is unsustainable. Martin’s previous failure to criticise Varadkar for dodging Covid rules prompted accusations of hypocrisy after senior Fianna fail Minsiter Dara Calleary who was forced to resign for a similar transgression.
Even the true-blue Irish Independent is describing the Fine Gael leadership as “wandering from controversy to controversy” after a decade in power.
Sligo TD Marc McSharry said: “ If we are serious as parliamentarians in a modern democratic republic, we cannot continue like this. Consistency in application of the rules must trump the identity of the protagonists involved, whoever they are or whatever position they hold.”
In a letter to colleagues, party TD John McGuinness said the Taoiseach had allowed Fianna Fáil to be used “as a doormat”. He said the party was being asked by Fine Gael to “bend like a daisy in a storm” and that it was time for the leader to pass on the baton.
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said that how the government reacts to the fallout could be a watershed moment for Ireland. Speaking on RTÉ, he said it was time to reform the political system and “root out cronyism”.