Tuesday 6 December 2016

Blame game begins as FG rolls out its 'young guns'

Kevin Doyle, Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

Published 18/02/2016 | 02:30

Simon Coveney (pictured) and Leo Varadkar are now to take a central role in trying to salvage Fine Gael’s chances of re-election. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Fusionshooters
Simon Coveney (pictured) and Leo Varadkar are now to take a central role in trying to salvage Fine Gael’s chances of re-election. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Fusionshooters

A blame game is underway within Fine Gael as candidates point the finger at party strategists for their botched election campaign.

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The party has begun rolling out its 'young guns' in a move away from Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan.

Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar are now to take a central role in trying to salvage Fine Gael's chances of re-election.

Sources have told the Irish Independent there is particular annoyance among candidates outside the capital that their key message of 'keep the recovery going' has insulted voters.

Ministers are now to tone down the rhetoric around the recovery and point to the global economic crisis with frequent references to the situations in Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Over a series of media appearance yesterday, Mr Varadkar was sent out to attack Micheál Martin's record on health. And last night he admitted the party's election slogan "annoys" some people.

"What we probably need to do as Fine Gael and as a government party is explain what we mean by that.

"What that does mean is bringing the recovery home, making sure that those people who haven't felt it yet do, by putting money back in their pockets," he said.

Mr Coveney confirmed on Newstalk Lunchtime that he will be upping his public appearances in the final days of the campaign.

"I have been out there and I will be out there a lot more in the next week I suspect, as will Leo, as will others," he said.

Former minister Alan Shatter told the Irish Independent that Fine Gael is failing to sell this message.

Disaster

"I know this is at the heart of Fine Gael policy, but I'm concerned that that crucial message is not yet being fully communicated to the electorate," he said.

Mr Shatter expressed concern that many voters could "sleep walk to disaster" by electing a government led by Gerry Adams and supported by up to 35 independents.

"A lot of people who will have voted for independents will ask 'what in the name of god have we done?' It is vitally important we refocus on trust and responsibility in dealing with the public finances."

There is increasing anger among Fine Gael candidates over how the campaign is being managed by director of election Brian Hayes and party strategists based in Dublin.

There is a belief among seasoned TDs that Fine Gael's 'keep the recovery going' message does not translated to areas of rural Ireland.

"People are insulted by the recovery message in Rural Ireland," a Fine Gael source said.

Another source said: "The strategists and experts need to get off the stage now and the politicians should be allowed do what they do best - get elected."

Meanwhile, a Finance Deparment spokesman has "categorically" denied that Finance minister Michael Noonan's health was a factor in his non-attendance at last week's meeting of European finance ministers. He also said it wasn't because Mr Noonan was campaigning in the election.

"It was more the case that the agenda wasn't crucial... for the minister or the department at that point. It was important. They're always important but it wasn't crucial," he said.

Irish Independent

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