Sunday 25 September 2016

Fine Gael chairman: I won't tolerate ministers not turning up for weekly meetings

Published 20/06/2016 | 02:30

Martin Heydon: Taoiseach and ministers will be accountable Photo: Tom Burke
Martin Heydon: Taoiseach and ministers will be accountable Photo: Tom Burke

Newly elected Fine Gael chairman Martin Heydon has criticised the party leadership for failing to heed the concerns of TDs in the run-up to the recent General Election.

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Mr Heydon has vowed to ensure that under his chairmanship of the parliamentary party, the Taoiseach and ministers will be held to greater account for policy decisions.

Enda Kenny has been criticised for using the word 'whingers' in relation to people in Castlebar Photo: Gerry Mooney
Enda Kenny has been criticised for using the word 'whingers' in relation to people in Castlebar Photo: Gerry Mooney

The Kildare South TD also said he would not tolerate a situation where ministers fail to turn up at weekly meetings.

"We have had a history of ministers not attending meetings and that's not acceptable," Mr Heydon told the Irish Independent.

"It is the job of Fine Gael as a party to absolutely make sure that we in government deliver for the people. This will mean the Taoiseach and senior ministers need to be held to account for decisions.

"If this means that ministers will be challenged and made feel uncomfortable at meetings, then so be it."

Mr Heydon said councillors and TDs were not always listened to during the last term and that this must now change.

"Fine Gael has a lot of lessons to learn from the election," he said. "There certainly is a sense that there was a lot of attention made to focus groups and polls.

"But my message is very clear and that is that the best focus group is Fine Gael members, the people on the ground."

Mr Heydon said that there needed to be a "clear distinction" between Fine Gael and the Government itself.

He said the party had "not been very good at making that distinction" in the past.

Fine Gael's election outcome, which saw the party lose 26 Dáil seats compared with 2011, is currently the subject of a review being led by Dr Marion Coy of the Michael Collins Institute.

Ms Coy, a former head of the Galway and Mayo Institute of Technology, is known to the party leadership. But party sources have insisted that she is independent of the hierarchy and capable of doing an "arm's-length" review into the party's election disaster.

A number of TDs are also involved in the inquiry, including Alan Farrell, Maria Bailey, Kate O'Connell and Peter Burke.

Two others, Helen McEntee and Patrick O'Donovan, stepped aside after being appointed as junior ministers last month.

The report is expected to recommend sweeping changes to the party's structures.

Many of those who contributed to the review have called for more powers to be given to public representatives, rather than non-elected party officials.

"That has been one of the most overwhelming messages that has been received and it will be front and centre in the report itself," according to one Fine Gael figure involved in the process.

Enda Kenny's "poor media performances" during the election campaign are also expected to feature.

Review

Mr Kenny  has privately come under strong criticism by TDs following his use of the term "whingers" in relation to people in Castlebar.

The Fine Gael leader is expected to update the parliamentary party on the review in the coming weeks.

The review is also due to be published in full.

There remains anger within the party that promised reviews of the October 2011 presidential election campaign were not carried out.

In that election, the party's candidate, Gay Mitchell, got a very poor vote against a background of a huge General Election triumph just months earlier. A similar review that was promised about the reversals suffered in the May 2014 local elections also failed to materialise.

Irish Independent

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