Delegates of Fianna Fáil met in Dublin on 23 February ahead of key elections to local authorities and the European Parliament in May and to reaffirm their commitment to creating an Ireland for all.
In his keynote speech to conclude the Ard Fheis, Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin TD said: “Just as it has for most of our party's history, a strong and successful Europe is a core objective of Fianna Fáil and this is the message we will take to the doorstep at next May's vital European elections.”
Martin defended the decision of his party to extend its confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael to maintain stability in the face of Brexit, stating: “In the face of the political shambles in London, Ireland simply has to be able to react quickly to every development. Ireland needs a government and parliament which are in place and capable of taking decisions. Calling an election today would see us spend up to four months both campaigning and forming a government. Nobody who genuinely has Ireland's interests at heart could tolerate this.”
“The price of playing politics with Brexit would be felt by the Irish people in fewer jobs, lower salaries, less money for schools, hospitals and pensions,” he continued. “We want this government gone, but we refuse to expose our country to the massive risk of having no functioning government or Dáil at this moment of great threat. That is why we took the step of extending the confidence and supply agreement and it is why Ireland's hand in the Brexit talks remains strong.”
With less than 40 days to go until Brexit, a panel discussion on the impact and implications for Ireland was held, chaired by the party’s Brexit Spokesperson Lisa Chambers TD. Present during the debate was Colum Eastwood, the leader of the SDLP party of Northern Ireland with whom Fianna Fáil have recently formed a policy partnership. On this partnership, Eastwood told delegates: “The new partnership between the SDLP and Fianna Fáil is based on a common analysis that business as usual is not an option. Extraordinary times call for more than ordinary measures. Brexit encompasses change on every level. We are coming together to shape the change before us.”
The previous weekend saw the party’s first European candidate selected: Barry Andrews in the Dublin Constituency. Andrews also participated in this discussion and stressed the opportunities for greater Fianna Fáil cooperation in Europe and participation in the European Parliament following the European elections in May. Selection procedures are underway for candidates in the other Ireland constituencies.
The Ard Fheis also included a commemoration marking 100 years since the first sitting of the Dáil Éireann (the Irish Parliament) in 1919.