Irish backstop –
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will run a “Boris Johnson-style campaign” in the general election with nasty “attack dog” tactics and sweeping empty promises.
In an interview to coincide with the end of the autumn term, Mr Martin launched a hard-hitting attack on Fine Gael, accusing it of bad politics and underhand methods, for what he alleged was its continued attacks on Fianna Fáil front-bench deputies.
“That’s dirty politics, dirty-tricks stuff within the bowels of the Fine Gael press office. Let them at it but I’m not going down that route,” he said.
Asked what he meant by a Johnson-style campaign, Mr Martin referred to the British prime minister’s election claim of establishing 40 new hospitals when only three were realistic prospects.
“I note now that we’re going to get promises [from Mr Varadkar] for 10 years’ time. Everything is kind of couched in that kind of language. We’re going to have a ‘mighty trade agreement’.
“I know that language during the last week sounded very familiar to me, a ‘mighty trade agreement’ with Britain,” said Mr Martin.
“We have seen negative tactics emerge and Fine Gael have said this, they’ve trailed this: they are going to go for Fianna Fáil front-bench people, they are going to go for me, that it’s going to be [an] ‘attack dog’ approach.
“That is what I mean by the nasty side of politics coming out.”
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He accused Fine Gael of using this approach to deflect attention away from the controversies surrounding Dara Murphy and Verona Murphy.
His comments follow heated exchanges between both leaders in the Dáil this week where Mr Martin described the Taoiseach as a “nasty piece of work”. With the Government’s support levels in the Dáil on a knife edge, and in the absence of a new agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, his criticisms will be seen as escalating tensions and casting new uncertainty on the tenability of the coalition.
Mr Martin also claimed Fianna Fáil’s Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers had been targeted in the past week by a “vexatious” complaint about voting on behalf of a colleague.
Mr Martin argued the colleague had been in the chamber at the time, and it was an example of a widespread practice that the complainant, Fergus O’Dowd, admitted he had done himself.
He said the Taoiseach had done an interview on Saturday in which he said Ms Chambers should be deselected. He said the following day Fine Gael published an “attack” video.
“That’s all coincidence? I’m supposed to believe that is all coincidence. The attack video is ready to go on Lisa Chambers,” he said.
“They are very organised in a very dirty way. That is bad politics,” he said. “I’m not going down that route.”
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