'Lend us your vote again as FF are still the enemy' - Hayes
Fine Gael's new director of elections has asked Fianna Fáil supporters who famously 'lent' their votes to Enda Kenny in 2011 to stick with him for another five years as Micheál Martin's party are "still the enemy".
Brian Hayes believes Fine Gael are on course to reach around 35pc on polling day and be returned to government with the Labour Party - but says the "soft" Independent vote needs to be won over.
In his first interview since being appointed director of elections, the MEP launched the strongest attack of the campaign to date, saying Fianna Fáil are "clueless when it comes to the economy", "all over the place on tax" and "flirting" with Sinn Féin about a coalition.
"We're saying 'stay with us' because those decent Fianna Fáil people want economic competence over incompetence.
"They certainly got incompetence with Fianna Fáil and they looked to us. They lent us their votes for the last election and we want that to remain," Mr Hayes said.
"We also have to look not just at their record which was devastating in government but on the fact that they have said nothing on the economy since.
"They have no policy on jobs," he said.
Mr Hayes wants a fully fledged campaign to run over two months.
"One of the things I'm in favour of is a long election campaign from January.
"We need to shine a big strong light on what all these other parties are saying.
"For the last five years, they have simply got away with just attacking the Government.
"I think a long, deep campaign, shining a light on everyone, is what's needed," he said.
The Dublin politician said there was no way that Fine Gael would do business with Fianna Fáil or Sinn Féin but they would look to Independents if a Fine Gael and Labour coalition falls short of the 79 seats required to make up a government.
Asked whether former Fine Gael TD Michael Lowry, who was at the centre of the Moriarty Tribunal, would be considered, Mr Hayes said the Tipperary representative couldn't be ruled out.
"All Independents would have to be looked at that time," he said.
A new opinion poll yesterday put Fine Gael on 31pc (+5), followed by Fianna Fáil on 19pc (-1), Sinn Féin on 17pc (-4) and the Labour Party on 8pc (+1).
Independents and other smaller parties account for 24pc but Mr Hayes described this vote as "soft" and said Fine Gael would be going out to convince those people. "There are a lot of people saying they are voting Independent at the moment and I think that will have to be shaken out once the campaign starts.
"In the 10-day period before the election, people will decide what kind of government they want and I think that vote is very soft and that is winnable to Fine Gael and to Labour," he said.
With the combined vote for the Coalition now standing at 39pc, Mr Hayes said they were on the verge of where they needed to be going into the campaign.
He said the Labour Party would get "well north of 10pc" on polling day and there was "no reason" to believe Fine Gael and Labour wouldn't be in a position to form a government if they could get up to 43 or 44pc.
"It looks like we are getting close to that. We haven't hit it yet. If we can get to 40pc going into the election, I'm hopeful that we can put another four or five points on during the campaign. We're trending upwards right now," he said.
"The important thing is the trend. The trend is your friend in politics," he added, pointing out that most of the recent polls have been positive for Fine Gael.
Fine Gael is to base its campaign on a three-point plan with the key messages being 'more jobs', 'make work pay' and 'invest in public services'.
Asked about the rift between Fine Gael and Labour over how to increase incomes for low-paid workers, Mr Hayes said people "shouldn't get too sensitive".
Tánaiste Joan Burton had described Fine Gael's plan for a 'Working Family Payment' as akin to "corporate welfare", while in response Fine Gael sources said her 'Living Wage' policy would "destroy jobs".
"Both are distinct parties, both are going to set out their platforms. But both are absolutely committed to going back into government if the Irish people vote that way," Mr Hayes said.
"Both parties are saying the same thing in terms of what we want, that we want to make work pay," he said.