‘Micheál Martin has a number of very significant enemies in Fianna Fáil’

The Irish Times political team discuss the sacking of Barry Cowen, at an Inside Politics event

It was sad for Inside Politics host Hugh Linehan that his event "New Taoiseach, New Government, New Challenges" – part of the Irish Times Summer Nights Festival – fell on such a slow news day.

And so, with nothing else to talk about, he, Jennifer Bray, Pat Leahy and Harry McGee had to talk about the overnight sacking of Barry Cowen, the record-winningly short-tenured agriculture minister, for a drink driving conviction several years ago.

The festival – supported by Peugeot – is a series of online talks taking place from Monday July 13th to Thursday 16th

Summer Nights

"It's been a placid start for the new government, I don't think," said Leahy.


Bray said: "When you have a minister that isn't willing to explain aspects that are withstanding… it sucks all the air out of the Government… People are looking at Fianna Fáil saying 'This is Fianna Fáil of the past'."

Leahy put it in a broader context: “I think what we’ve seen over recent weeks is the effect of being so long in opposition for Fianna Fáil. That ruthless self-discipline… I think at least some of that has left the party, and we now have a situation where Micheál Martin has a number of very significant enemies in the party.”

They discussed how long Martin would remain leader of Fianna Fáil. "The accepted narrative is that Fianna Fáil have most to lose from this coalition," said McGee. Fine Gael, he noted, are in "a miraculous Lazarus mode [but] the big difficulty for Fianna Fáil is what do they stand for anymore? ... The party will have to outperform if it's to retain any of its political traction."

Bray discussed the grudges and disaffection within Fianna Fáil and said Martin was unlikely to lead them into the next election. Fianna Fáil had a particular challenge, said Bray, “They have a lot to prove… They have to prove they’re fiscally prudent, responsible and capable of rebooting the economy… It’s their opportunity to waste.”

McGee reported on the dissatisfaction at the grass roots of the Green Party and the "good mannered" leadership battle between Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan.

Bray discussed the manner in which Fine Gael went from being “defeated” to being reinvigorated by their response to the pandemic, just as Martin was taking on leadership of the country.

A viewer asked whether Varadkar would leave the leadership of Fine Gael as he has suggested. McGee noted that though the Fine Gael leader had mentioned he would like to retire from politics by the age of 50, "I don't think Leo Varadkar is in any hurry to go anywhere."

They briefly discussed Sinn Féin and their chances of coming into power with the next election. Leahy ended the discussion by suggesting that Sinn Féin would have to unite the parties of the left and offer an “alternative sort of government”.

Tickets for the rest of the festival are on sale at a reduced price of €20, which gives access to all remaining events. Click here and apply the discount code "summer20" before purchase to avail of the €20 price. For digital subscribers the discount will be automatically applied – just make sure you are signed in to The Irish Times before you click here.

Thursday, the final night of the festival, will include: former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power; lawyer and former White House insider Melody Barnes (both interviewed by Fintan O'Toole); and musician Imelda May (in conversation with Róisín Ingle).

Ticket buyers receive a link by email on each day of the festival, allowing them to attend the events via their phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.