Friday 23 March 2018

FG draws up list of pledges for two terms in government

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FINE Gael will put a radical plan to voters at the next general election, setting out a manifesto that will take two terms in power to fulfil, the Irish Independent has learnt.

Party leader Enda Kenny will set out a list of pledges to cover 10 years in government, as his party becomes increasingly confident of getting into office.

Fine Gael will outline a full range of policies across all government departments, with the deadlines for their implementation running over two consecutive terms.

However, the main opposition party has left itself open to accusations of being overly cocky about the election result and of preparing a series of excuses for when it fails to deliver on promises.

Nevertheless, Fine Gael will argue that some of its proposals cannot be implemented within just one term in office because of the damage done to the economy, a senior party figure said.


"It will all be aimed at two terms in government, rather than just one. We will indicate what can be done with timing and accountability," the party source said.

Fine Gael will also promise voters it will give a "credible and verifiable" annual report of its progress in government.

"It's the first time you will have proper planned government in Ireland. And we will be trying to do it all in the context of a destroyed economy, so it will take time."

The party's next set of policies to be published will be on public sector reform and pensions.

Finance spokesman Richard Bruton is putting the finishing touches on the public-sector reform plan.

The party has also beefed up its policy-making staff in Leinster House and added new policies to existing papers on areas such as job creation, healthcare and political reform.

Fine Gael plans to be ready for an autumn election.

"We do want it (party policy) to be the subject of significant public debate. That debate will not be concluded by the election -- public participation will be sought," the source added.

Mr Kenny is predicting that he can win an overall majority in a general election -- a claim which is not supported by the party's standing in the polls.

On foot of its increased support and the response to the Government's banking strategy, Fine Gael strategists believe that winning more than 75 seats is now entirely realistic.

The party has 51 seats, following the gain and subsequent loss of George Lee's seat. It will be in the hunt in the three Dail by-elections but might not win any of those seats.

Mr Kenny's insistence that Richard Bruton will be the finance minister means that any coalition partner, such as the Labour Party, will lose out on the top two positions in government. Mr Bruton's position was "non-negotiable", the party source said, adding: "We're going for an overall majority. We are not thinking about trimming our sails. Whoever comes into government will have to live with it (a Fine Gael finance minister) or find an alternative."

Despite the George Lee debacle, the party is making no secret of its willingness to bring in well-known candidates from outside its ranks. Going beyond the limited pool of 'celebrity' candidates, Fine Gael says it is hunting for "people with established, proven track record of contribution to society".

The party is targeting Dublin for an influx of high-profile candidates, but says it is also looking at rural constituencies, where it wants to find running mates for sitting TDs.

"We will be running enough candidates to win all the seats. We don't want to get caught like Dick Spring in 1992.

"In a lot of constituencies in Ireland, the seats are split between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. We will be getting a seat bonus. But how we perform is as much down to how Fianna Fail are doing," the source said.


Irish Independent

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