Sunday 18 March 2018

Outgoing MEP Higgins hits out at naive FG poll strategy

Midlands- North West

Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

OUTGOING Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins has launched a scathing attack against the party over it's "major political mistakes", calling it naive in the way it handled the run-up to the elections.

Mr Higgins, who is almost certain to lose his seat, also criticised the party's election strategy as "absolute and utter lunacy".

The sitting MEP said no other party in the country would have imposed water charges ahead of an election. He also criticised the decisions to withdraw allowances from senior citizens, calling them "the people who vote".

"Mistakes were made during the election – major political mistakes. I mean we're in Government but we're naive in terms of the way we handled things," he said.

Mr Higgins also hit out at the withdrawal of medical cards, saying the Opposition had seized on the issue as was their prerogative.

"We have reaped the harvest on that so we need to learn an awful lot in terms of how we handle the political mix between, on the one hand, the economy, and the other hand, the way the political reality plays out," he added.

The veteran politician also hit out at the decision not to divide the territory.

"I think there were a number of problems. The first problem was I've never been in an election – and I've fought 16 elections – that you didn't have some kind of a strategy as regards dividing the territory, whether it's a county council election or a Dail election.

"Here we are with a territory of 1.6 million people stretching from Dundalk to Clifden, from Malin Head to Tipperary border with no division. To me it's absolute and utter lunacy and that's where Fine Gael headquarters went wrong. They should have sat down strategically and said 'Jim that's your area, Mairead that's your area, you go out, you fine comb it' and then with two or three weeks to go we assess where we are in terms of whether strategy is working and re-devise it," he said.

However, despite his criticisms, Mr Higgins insisted that Taoiseach Enda Kenny had his full confidence. Instead, he called for a review of where the party was going politically.

"Our big objective always was the one that always eluded us – the second term in office. And unless we get our act together in terms of strategy we are going to be in difficulty," he said.

As expected, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan was elected to the European Parliament last night. He said he would not work with extreme right groups in Brussels and would seek out other Eurosceptics from the centre and left to work beside.

He said he would work with all other Irish MEPs but had a stark warning for Fine Gael.


"People don't elect you to a parliament to fight with one another, they elect you to work with each other. But if I see that Fine Gael MEPs are out in the European Parliament telling everyone that everything is fine and rosy in the Irish household, I will be very quick to tackle them on that and point out that it isn't true, that I would like if it was true, but we need to do certain things to change that," he added.

Mr Flanagan said the first thing he would concentrate on was opening a trading bloc which would allow farmers to access the British market.

Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy is on course to take the second seat in the four-seater constituency with Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness in third position.

The battle for the final seat continues between Independent Marian Harkin and Fianna Fail's Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher.

Independent Ronan Mullen was eliminated on the third count and his votes will now be distributed among the remaining candidates.

Irish Independent

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