FG to stay on message and avoid 'fisticuffs' with Labour
Fine Gael is to stick to its message on low-paid workers despite claims from their Coalition partners that FG's policies are subsidising huge corporations.
Up to 70 of the party's election candidates are due in Dublin this evening where they will be briefed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Frances Fitzgerald and Michael Noonan on their strategy over the coming months.
Already senior party members have been warned not to "engage in fisticuffs" with the Labour Party for fear it will sour relations as the campaign enters full swing, the Irish Independent understands.
Tensions have been building steadily between the two parties in recent months amid claims by Labour that Fine Gael is effectively "stealing" its policies on issues such as taxes on higher earners and the low paid.
Mr Kenny is to effectively fire the starting gun on Fine Gael's campaign tonight when he tells candidates that the Irish people have "worked too hard" to get to where we are.
Ms Fitzgerald will open proceedings, which are expected to last two hours, with an overview of the party's strategy to date.
The Taoiseach will then outline the progress the country has made over the last five years. Sources say he will point out that 135,000 more people are now at work but that the recovery cannot be taken for granted.
During his rallying call Mr Kenny will describe the candidates as Fine Gael's "strongest team ever".
Finance Minister Michael Noonan will talk about what party sources described as their "three-prolonged plan" for gaining re-election.
The plan is based on more jobs spread across the country, jobs that pay more than welfare, and affordable improvements in services.
One of Fine Gael's leading strategists Mark Mortell will warn candidates about the challenges ahead.
It comes after the Labour Party moved to rubbish Fine Gael's pre-election offering for low-paid families. Mr Kenny has promised to top up their wages to ensure every working parent in the country earns at least €11.75 an hour, if re-elected.
Labour's Ged Nash said the plan will "allow big business off the hook when it comes to paying for a decent wage".
But in a clear attempt to "calm the troops" within Fine Gael, senior party strategists have warned that there will be "no fisticuffs" between the two parties. Unless Fine Gael come under "direct attack" from Labour, Fine Gael will not engage in criticising the party's policies, senior sources say.
Asked if she was worried that policy disputes between the Labour Party and Fine Gael could damage their stability message ahead of the General Election, Tánaiste Joan Burton said: "I absolutely welcome Fine Gael so clearly demonstrating that they favour the minimum wage and regular increases in the minimum wage."
However, she added: "Their position is slightly different to ours in that we want to actually see a move over a period of time, initially on a voluntary basis, to a 'Living Wage'. We don't want support for families on low income to become a substitute for employers paying proper wages. There is an issue there, particularly where employers are doing extremely well."