BY declaring his support for repealing the 8th amendment and abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, without consulting his parliamentary party before announcing it, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised the hackles of the faction which has been growing impatient with his subservience to the Fine Gael-led government under their confidence and supply arrangement. While he was only practising what he preached about giving party members free rein to vote according to their own conscience, he was taking a gamble that the referendum proposal would be passed.
According to one of exit polls, slightly over half of the people surveyed who described themselves as Fianna Fáil supporters said they voted No. However, the overall national vote resulted in an almost two-to-one victory for the Yes side, showing that Micheál Martin is either shrewder at reading the mindset of the electorate or perhaps a lucky general, and also begging the question: is the Fianna Fáil body politic out of touch with what people are thinking?
If the No side had won, there surely would have been calls for Martin’s resignation as leader, however he is still left with a lot of cracks to smooth over.