Sunday 26 June 2016

Labour plots 'gay' attack ad on Martin and Adams

'Happy couple' theme dismissed as 'desperate'

Philip Ryan and Ronald Quinlan

Published 03/01/2016 | 02:30

POSTER BOYS: The ad has fuelled fears that we may see a US-style negative campaign
POSTER BOYS: The ad has fuelled fears that we may see a US-style negative campaign

The Labour Party has devised an attack ad for the General Election, which will portray Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin as a gay couple on their wedding day, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The election ad, which will divide opinion and raise concerns over negative campaigning, is aimed at stoking fears over the possibility of a Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail government and presenting the Coalition as the only alternative.

The campaign will infuriate Mr Martin, who has persistently ruled out going into coalition with Sinn Fein, despite advances from Mr Adams, who is open to forming a government with Fianna Fail.

The advertisement shows Mr Adams and Mr Martin on the plinth outside Leinster House, cutting a wedding cake, and comes with a warning to voters that "this is one marriage we should vote NO to this year", before adding: "Vote Labour for a stable and balanced Government."

The image also features left-wing TDs Richard Boyd Barrett, Paul Murphy, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly as the wedding party.

The Labour/Fine Gael Government is continually telling voters that the forthcoming election is a choice between the stability of the current Coalition and chaos under Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail.

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Labour strategists hope the election ad will reinforce this point, while reminding voters of the party's role in the marriage equality referendum.

A senior source said that the draft advert was aimed at making a "serious point in a humorous way".

The source said the image made the point that voters have a choice between "the stable, balanced Government offered by Labour and Fine Gael and a marriage of convenience between Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein that would destroy Ireland's hard-won progress".

"Fianna Fail caused the bust in the first place and Sinn Fein would return us to bust with their policies," the source added.

But last night, Mr Martin's spokeswoman said Labour's campaign showed that Joan Burton's party was "clutching at straws in desperation".

"The stakes are very high for Labour, so they have to go for the negative campaign to get noticed," she added.

And Fianna Fail's environment spokesman, Barry Cowen, said that any sequel to Labour's 'Every little hurts under Fine Gael' ad would only "heighten people's abhorrence of their tactics".

A Sinn Fein spokesman said Labour was becoming "increasingly desperate" as the General Election approaches.

Senior Labour sources said the ad was one of several images that the party is considering as part of its election campaign.

However, the advertisement is likely to raise concerns over the potential for a US-style negative election campaign, which would see parties engaged in cut-throat tactics to win votes.

The Labour ad follows previous revelations in the Sunday Independent that Fine Gael plans to personally target Mr Martin during the election. The party described him as "a shiver without a spine" in a private briefing.

The General Election campaign will kick into overdrive in the coming weeks, with increased speculation that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will hold the election on either February 25 or 26.

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The Coalition has been buoyed by a series of positive opinion poll results showing increasing public support for Labour and Fine Gael.

However, there are fears in both coalition parties that their election campaigns could be derailed as the Government scrambles to limit voter backlash over its management of the worst flood crisis to hit the country since records began.

And with vast swathes of the country submerged in water, Mr Kenny infuriated his party colleagues last week by refusing to visit areas devastated by the floods for several days.

The Taoiseach is also set to face mounting pressure from members over the botched attempt to force Sligo/Leitrim TD John Perry off Fine Gael's election ticket. The party is facing a €500,000 bill over its failed High Court defence of Mr Perry's legal challenge to have his selection convention result overturned.

Party members are now insisting that Fine Gael secretary general Tom Curran be called to account for what a Fine Gael minister called a "scandalous waste of money".

The Sunday Independent can also reveal today the contents of the controversial letter that Mr Curran sent to the returning officer who ran the contentious selection convention and which was not initially disclosed by Fine Gael under discovery.

In the internal Fine Gael correspondence, Mr Curran brands the organisation of the event as "chaotic" and ravaged by a "catalogue" of mistakes which "drained people's confidence in the competency of the returning officer".

Last night, Mr Perry questioned whether Mr Curran should remain as Fine Gael general secretary and called on Mr Kenny to explain his role in the fiasco.

Mr Perry was supported by Cork East TD Tom Barry, who said Fine Gael was becoming like the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) with "too much power divested to the executive and particularly one member".

"In light of this and the damage it has done, it would be appropriate, following such a public trial where large sums of money were needlessly wasted, that a full independent review should be initiated," Mr Barry told the Sunday Independent.

Others senior Fine Gael figures, who feared speaking publicly ahead of the election, also questioned whether the €141,000-a-year secretary general could remain in the party after next year's vote.

"I don't think his position is tenable. I'd say once this election is over there will be fellas asking question about Curran," a senior Fine Gael source said.

Meanwhile, Labour is gearing up for its election campaign which will see a variety of election ads on billboards, in print and online. The image revealed today is one of a number of advertisements that the party plans to unveil over the course of the campaign.

The gay marriage ad is currently a draft and has not been commissioned to run in any publication.

Sunday Independent

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