Monday 16 July 2018

Financially, FG is in pole position if country is forced into another election

Joan Burton's leadership of the Labour Party would come under scrutiny if an election was called quickly Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Joan Burton's leadership of the Labour Party would come under scrutiny if an election was called quickly Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The main political parties are ready to go back on an election footing within hours if a government cannot be formed.

Fine Gael held back money in the final days of the February campaign in order to build up a small war chest in the event of a second election, the Irish Independent has learned.

Well-placed sources said if there is no breakthrough in the coming days party officials will have to start "thinking about logistics".

And one senior source added that even if a minority administration is formed, it's likely they will begin work on a new campaign in the short-term anyway.

"One way or another we're getting an election within 12 months.

"There will be a lot of internal transition in that period. No grand coalition means another election will happen," the strategist said.

The party plans to reshape its manifesto and invest in new advertising that avoids its disastrous 'Keep the Recovery Going' slogan, while gender quotas will "always be an issue".

However, one source said Fine Gael feels better placed than other parties to put together a comprehensive campaign "built around a message of stability".

"Nobody has any money but we are probably in a better position than most," said a source.

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny's party massively outspent its rivals in the run up to February 26.

"Money is the big problem. We have a big bill after the election but it's one that we are well capable of servicing.

"There is some contingency funding," said the Fine Gael source.

"The structures are in place. We had about €2.7m, we kept some of that back.

"We were not spending madly in the final days on the basis that people could see a scenario like this."

Fianna Fáil spent around €1.9m on its campaign and sources admit its funds are now seriously depleted - but added that the party can revive 'An Ireland for All' as its message and be "prepared very, very quickly".

"You can pull it together but the finances would be a lot less. We'd have enough to do a campaign but at a lower level.

"We had a small team and it wasn't a flash operation. It was functional and we could certainly pull it together," a source said.

Sinn Féin's biggest obstacle is that there are Assembly elections in Northern Ireland on May 5, meaning much of its focus has been redirected across the border.

Senior party figures described having to run two campaigns simultaneously as "a stretch" but noted that they are close to completing a review of their individual constituency strategies and candidate selection in the Republic.

"That is expected to be finished shortly so it will be available if there's a second election," said a senior party source.

Questions over Acting Tánaiste Joan Burton's position as leader of the Labour Party would come to the fore if the 32nd Dáil is dissolved in the short-term, and the party will have issues around getting candidates back onto doorsteps after their election drubbing.

However, a strategist said they would be hopeful of reclaiming some seats that were narrowly lost, like that of junior minister Kevin Humphreys.

"The basics are there in terms of infrastructure and planning. A manifesto is broadly there," said a source.

The exact amount spent by each of the parties during the February campaign will not be publicly available until at least another three months.

However, it is understood that Sinn Féin budgeted in the region of €250,000.

Their candidates were also said to have spent about €20,000 each, which would bring the party's total election budget to at least €1.2m.

Labour's budgetary situation is particularly precarious as a result of its poor election.

The party is thought to have spent around €500,000, with candidates spending a similar amount.

Irish Independent

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