There were, no doubt, plenty of raised eyebrows in Ballina last week when a long-serving local member of the Fianna Fáil party went on the record with The Irish Times to express his opposition to the planned coalition between his party, Fine Gael and the Greens.
Hailing from a staunch Fianna Fáil family, Noel Mullen has been a life-long member of that party and currently serves as treasurer of the local comhairle ceantair.
He admitted to the Western People that he is not “a happy camper” about the proposed coalition and was highly critical of the huge hit sustained in terms of the party’s representation under Micheál Martin’s leadership.
He accused the party leadership of not listening to its rank and file members and dismissed the proposed programme for the coalition government as nothing more than “a long letter to Santa” with no account taken for costings or budgets and no provision for the West of Ireland.
His views do not appear to be shared by other high-profile local members of the party like former Ballina town councillors, Padraig Moore and Johnnie O’Malley.
Mr Moore said he did not have a particular problem with the proposed coalition of parties, saying there was not a huge difference between the policies of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil at present.
He believes it is mostly the older members of the party who are opposed to the coalition with those under 60 generally in favour.
While he regards some of the Green Party’s requirements as “off the wall”, he still views a coalition with the Greens and Fine Gael as more preferable and stable than having Sinn Féin in government.
Mr Moore said he would also be delighted to see local TD Dara Calleary, who is deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, appointed as a senior minister, adding that it would be very good for Ballina.
Johnnie O’Malley is also supportive of the proposed coalition, saying the party has to move with changing times and that its support for the outgoing Fine Gael-led government had been the first step towards change.
When asked whether a coalition with Fine Gael and the Greens would deny the electorate the change it voted for, Mr O’Malley said a coalition of the two establishment parties will surely be one of the biggest changes to ever happen in Irish political history and asked why the media has not made more of the failure of Sinn Féin to form a government.