Friday 23 February 2018

Election review to include Taoiseach's media role and his office structures

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's media perfomance will be probed. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Enda Kenny's media perfomance will be probed. Photo: Frank McGrath
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's "poor media performances" during the election campaign and the centralised powers of his close advisory team will form part of an independent review of Fine Gael's disappointing election result.

The election outcome, which saw the party lose 26 Dáil seats compared with 2011, deeply disappointed and angered many of the party rank and file and backbench TDs.

It has been agreed that Dr Marion Coy, who heads the Fine Gael-linked think-tank, the Michael Collins Institute, is to conduct a review of the election campaign for the party.

Ms Coy, a former head of the Galway and Mayo Institute of Technology, is known to the party leadership. But a party source insisted that she was independent of the hierarchy and capable of doing an "arm's-length" review of the how things went.

The review was one of the outcomes of a four-hour meeting of local directors of elections and party chairpersons from all 40 constituencies in Dublin last Saturday.

Among the issues covered were media performances by several key people in the party's campaign - including the Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the leaders' debates and other headline outings.

"The meeting was not acrimonious but it was plain-spoken and quite frank at times.

"Two delegates asked questions about Mr Kenny's media performances and suggested that there were problems associated with them," one participant told the Irish Independent.

Mr Kenny will tomorrow brief TDs and senators on the progress of a promised full review of the party's disappointing election. There is continued anger that promised reviews of the October 2011 presidential election campaign were not carried out.

In that election, the party 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.

Participants in Saturday's meeting were also focused on how the party could have lost four percentage points in the actual election, compared with opinion polls little more than a week earlier.

There was also some questioning about whether leadership structures are "too tight and centralised."

One source said that a great deal of decision-making power was concentrated with the Taoiseach and his team of close advisers.

"There are now questions about whether this contributed to an unduly inflexible approach and a lack of discussion and feedback," the source said.

One view expressed was that there appeared to be little ability to vary or adapt their campaign messaging when it was clear from feedback that this was not working. Senior campaign people had little input into content planning.

The meeting took place in Dublin's Maldron Hotel and was chaired by the party's director of elections, MEP Brian Hayes.

It is understood that the review could be concluded within several weeks. The task was given to one person so that it could be completed quickly and it will be circulated to TDs in due course.

Irish Independent

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