Fianna Fáil was rocked last night on the eve of its annual Ard Fheis when Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív resigned as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil
and as Communications spokesperson.
The shock news came after a day during which Ó Cuív had hinted that he strongly disagreed with the party leader's stance on support for the fiscal treaty referendum to be held in early summer.
Last night, party leader Micheál Martin issued a statement saying that he had accepted Mr Ó Cuív's resignation from these positions.
“This afternoon I accepted the resignation of my colleague Éamon Ó Cuív TD from the roles of Fianna Fáil Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
"Éamon's refusal to support the Parliamentary Party's position on the Fiscal Compact meant that it was no longer feasible for him to occupy these roles."
“As the Party prepares for a momentous Ard Fheis this weekend, it is my hope that Éamon will continue to work for Fianna Fáil's renewal as he has done over the last twelve months.
“Our party has led Ireland's positive and constructive engagement with Europe for generations and I am determined that it continues in this proud tradition.
Mr Ó Cuív confirmed last evening that he agreed to resign as deputy leader of the party, and as a member of the front bench, saying it was "a matter of principle" for him.
Deputy O Cuív will remain a member of Fianna Fail, and of the parliamentary party.
Earlier yesterday the Fianna Fáil leader had welcomed the decision to hold a referendum and pledged his party’s support for the Yes campaign, but Mr O Cuív expressed reservations over how he would vote.
When asked about his voting intentions on TG4’s Seacht Lá programme, Mr Ó Cuív said: “That is a personal matter for me.”
He said he had stated previously how he had voted and he was not going to make the same mistake again. This was a reference to his disclosure that he had voted No in the first Nice referendum.
Speaking on Raidió na Gaeltachta earlier yesterday, Dep Ó Cuív said he would decide “over the next while” whether to vote Yes or No. He said that there were very serious issues at play and that nobody “should rush into a decision one way or the other”.
He also said that he if he did go against Fianna Fáil on the referendum that the implications of that decision would mean leaving the parliamentary party.
Dep Ó Cuív has not been afraid to assert his own views within and outside of the party over the years. He famously voted No to the original referendum on the controversial Nice Treaty.
Also this is not the first time that the Cornamona-based deputy and party leader Martin have held a difference of opinion on a major political matter - Dep Ó Cuív was bitterly critical of FF’s decision not to run a candidate in last November’s presidential election.
There was intense speculation on social media sites last night that the resignation of Dep O Cuiv could spark a leadership battle in the coming weeks ? precisely the last thing that Fianna Fail need on the eve of their Ard Fheis which opens tomorrow Friday in the RDS.