The leader of Fianna Fail has said the “harsh reality” is that his party has to back the Irish Government so the country can deal with the threat posed by Brexit.
Micheal Martin said members want the Fine Gael-led Government gone, but they refuse to expose the country to the “massive risk” of having no functioning administration in the midst of Brexit.
The Cork South Central TD made the comments during his presidential speech to his party’s national conference in Citywest, Dublin, on Saturday night.
Mr Martin said: “In normal times there would be no question about what should happen to this Government, but we have to accept the harsh reality of this very moment.
“Ireland faces a genuinely historic threat from Brexit and it has to have a government in place if we are to have any chance of limiting its damage.
“Every one of our members wants to get out on the doorsteps and sell a message of what a new government can do for our country.
“It’s a difficult decision for us, but it’s the right decision and it reinforces the fact that Fianna Fail is putting the national interest first.”
Fianna Fail re-entered into a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Government last year. By doing so, it ensured the continuation of the Fine Gael-led minority Government.
But in recent weeks as controversy over the spiralling overruns of the National Children’s Hospital became known, many party members voiced displeasure that they are continuing to back the Government.
Mr Martin criticised the Government over homelessness, housing and health issues, saying that at a time when real leadership is needed the Government is “out-of-touch” and “chronically incapable” of delivering plans.
He also criticised Sinn Fein for “jumping up and down” every day calling for “everything to be collapsed”.
He said: “They collapsed the Assembly and government in Northern Ireland over two years ago, causing huge damage and leaving the anti-Brexit majority at the mercy of anti-Europe parties.
“We’ll take no lectures from them about the national interest when 100 times out of 100, they put their party and movement’s interests first.”
He blamed the DUP and Sinn Fein for the decline in the political situation in Northern Ireland.
“Everyone knows that the core issue has been with the DUP and Sinn Fein, who ran the Executive like a closed cartel looking after their own,” he said.
Mr Martin added that a new agenda for development is needed on both sides of the border, and that is why Fianna Fail had decided to enter a new partnership with the SDLP.
“Working together we can help provide the new agenda which is so desperately needed both North and South,” he said.
It was Fianna Fail’s first conference since the party announced a new partnership with the SDLP in January.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood earlier gave an address to the delegates at the day-long event in the Citywest Hotel which was dominated by Brexit and housing issues.
On his arrival at the conference, Mr Martin said a new political agenda is required in Northern Ireland.
He said he believes a new middle ground is emerging in the region that is not obsessed with constitutional issues and instead wants to see the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement functioning.
“The sensible thing for us is to work with the SDLP who are routed in the north… but work with them on a policy agenda in terms of that bringing new ideas and approaches,” he said.