Micheál Martin insists Fianna Fáil will not be forming any coalition with Sinn Féin

The Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis has gotten underway in Dublin this evening

Micheál Martin insists Fianna Fáil will not be forming any coalition with Sinn Féin

Micheal Martin. Photograph: RollingNews.ie

The 78th Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis has opened in Dublin, with party leader Micheál Martin saying he wants to be Taoiseach.

4,500 delegates are expected at the RDS between now and tomorrow night's televised leader's address.

Tonight Fianna Fáil is debating organisational motions including one forbidding any coalition with Sinn Féin.

Deputy Martin says he supports that motion, explaining: "I've repeatedly said that I will not be going into coalition with them, and the Fianna Fáil party will not be.

"Everything we said before the last election in relation to coalition and formation of governments came true - we didn't renege on any of our commitments in that regard."

In his opening address to party members, Deputy Martin spoke about a number of issues - including the Government's new communications department and next year's referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

On the subject of the new €5 million Strategic Communications Unit, Deputy Martin argued: "The new Taoiseach has put us all on notice that we are now facing into a new era of hype and spin. 

"In three months he’s had nothing whatsoever to say about improving health services, developing education or addressing his government’s chronic lack of delivery – but he’s had lots to say about what he claims is an urgent need to communicate more."

Deputy Martin also said 'freedom of conscience principle' will apply to the party's members as the Oireachtas considers the issue of abortion.

"Their demand is that a fair question be put to them so that they can decide what changes if any they want to be introduced," he said. "It will be up to each person to decide where they stand."

He stressed that the current Oireachtas process ahead of the planned referendum is 'designed to be a fair one', and stressed that the debate must show 'respect for divergent opinions'.

He added: "We should avoid at all costs a campaign which degenerates into caricatures and name-calling."