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Marc MacSharry, Fianna Fáil’s most visible internal critic, on threshold of regaining the whip

Sligo TD retained support within the party since resigning last year but some members are wary of his return

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was not much contact between Marc MacSharry and the Taoiseach since the former resigned the Fianna Fáil whip last year, saying party policies were decided “in a fashion consistent with an undemocratic totalitarian regime”.

Now, the party’s most visible internal critic is on the threshold of regaining the whip.

The pair spoke about him coming back in recent weeks and again on a call this Wednesday, which was said to be frank but not ill-tempered, before a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party. A first attempt to pass a motion in favour of it stalled at the previous week’s meeting of the parliamentary party, when Martin suggested MacSharry would have to apply to the party.

Moves to restore the whip have been in gestation for some time. MacSharry, who said he was not commenting when contacted by The Irish Times, retained support within the party.


In late September, newly-restored Minister of State Dara Calleary told the Sunday Independent he would “100 per cent” back his “good mate” if he wanted to come back. Around the budget, MacSharry and the Taoiseach had a brief exchange on the floor of the Dáil, the rebel TD saying the budget was pretty good.

It was hardly a gracious exchange, but it was a semblance of dialogue. The following weekend, MacSharry made an appearance at the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis to campaign on behalf of his cousin, Edel McSharry, who ran successfully for a position on the party’s national executive. While there, he doubled down on a message he had been communicating through backchannels to the parliamentary party while campaigning for his cousin: he wanted back in, telling the Irish Examiner with a rhetorical flourish: “My return is inevitable”.

Calleary was due to second a motion from Laois-Offaly TD Barry Cowen to restore the whip to MacSharry last week, but was in the Dáil chamber. In the end, Cowen sat down next to Senator Diarmuid Wilson at the parliamentary party meeting and told him that he was about to propose the motion, and would Wilson second it. Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue spoke up, urging caution arguing that MacSharry had not done much to help Fianna Fáil either inside or outside the parliamentary party.

The meeting broke up without a definitive conclusion. But this week, Martin told the party meeting that a motion from chief whip Jack Chambers will be brought at the next meeting seeking to restore the whip to MacSharry.

Those close to the Taoiseach insist he is indifferent to the development. And there is a school of thought that accommodating a vocal critic is a sign of Martin’s relative strength – but it has set tongues wagging.

Those close to MacSharry argue that he was treated differently to others who lost the whip previously, and was left out in the cold for too long. The fact that MacSharry stands a strong chance of retaining his seat may have been the strongest argument in his favour. “I would be in favour of him coming back, he’s an addition to the party and an able guy – and our best chance of holding a seat [in Sligo-Leitrim],” says Limerick city TD Willie O’Dea.

There are others in the parliamentary party who are more closely aligned to McConalogue’s view. “He rants and raves and creates bad publicity for us,” says one TD. Another view is that Martin’s decision not to try and “ride out” the move is “another sign of the Taoiseach’s nervousness” regarding the parliamentary party, and that senior members aside from McConalogue were opposed. If they were, however, their opposition was not so vigorous that they felt the need to make it publicly known.