Tuesday 20 February 2018

Fury within FG at vote strategies that didn't apply to top ministers

Junior Minister and Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly prepares to go on radio after losing his seat. Photo: Rolling news
Junior Minister and Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly prepares to go on radio after losing his seat. Photo: Rolling news
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Fine Gael members are incensed by the vote strategies that were implemented for some TDs, but not for senior ministers, after the party was mauled by the electorate.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's party suffered major casualties as long-standing TDs lost their seats in a disastrous General Election campaign.

Anger is now turning towards party headquarters and the elected representatives who were charged with overseeing Fine Gael's election strategy.

Mr Kenny devolved power to three senior Cabinet ministers to plan and strategise for the General Election campaign which could now cost him his leadership.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was appointed chair of Fine Gael's national election strategy committee, while Health Minister Leo Varadkar chaired a sub-committee on communication. Simon Coveney was put in charge of policy.

All three ministers are regularly tipped as future party leaders.

Dublin MEP Brian Hayes was appointed the party's director of elections.

Soon after the results emerged on Saturday, former TDs began to turn on those who were responsible for orchestrating the failed campaign.

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter criticised what he called "interference in the electoral process by Fine Gael headquarters" after his shock defeat in Dublin Rathdown.

Mr Shatter was referring to a series of letters sent by party headquarters to supporters in his end of the constituency, urging them to give his running mate Josepha Madigan their number one vote.

"It's unfortunate that when you're running campaigns and people who aren't involved in them seem to think they can sit in Mount Street (Fine Gael headquarters) and impose views on people that bear no relationship to what's happening on the ground," he said.

Ultimately, Ms Madigan took the seat while Mr Shatter lost out.

In Cork East, the party added a third candidate - former Labour councillor Noel McCarthy - on top of sitting TDs David Stanton and Tom Barry. Only Mr Stanton won a seat.

There are other examples of failed vote strategies, although others came off successfully, such as Dún Laoghaire and Meath East.

It was noticeable, however, that strict vote strategies were not implemented in either Frances Fitzgerald's or Leo Varadkar's constituencies.

Ms Fitzgerald was elected on the first count with 20pc of the vote in the four-seat constituency.

Her running mate in Dublin Mid West, Derek Keating, polled just 5pc of the vote in the constituency.

Sources say Ms Fitzgerald and Mr Keating's relationship is non-existent and it would have been difficult to organise a strategy between the pair.

Mr Varadkar did write to some constituents, urging them to vote for his running mate Catherine Noone and the Labour leader Joan Burton.

But the results show that Mr Varadkar got 20pc of the vote while his party colleague Ms Noone got less than 3pc.

Irish Independent

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