Saturday 25 November 2017

Fundraiser who pulled FG back from brink

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

She is frequently teased by Environment Minister Phil Hogan over her ever-changing shades of hair colour.

But everybody in Fine Gael knows that the role played by fundraiser Anne Strain in the party's political rejuvenation is no laughing matter.

The 57-year-old livewire, originally from Co Tipperary, has transformed the party's money-raising capabilities with a range of events, including the revamped €1m national draw, a presidential dinner and golf classics.

Since Taoiseach Enda Kenny took over as leader, Fine Gael has developed the slickest and most profitable fundraising operation in the country, largely through Ms Strain's work.

"She has huge respect. She put the foundations in place. The two of them (Mr Kenny and Ms Strain) get on like a house on fire. He knows he wouldn't have been able to do it without her and without the money," a Fine Gael TD said.

Successful

In his report on the reorganisation of the party after the 2002 general election meltdown, party spindoctor Frank Flannery recommended hiring a full-time fundraiser to ensure the party's approach to bringing in money was professional.

Through her efforts, Fine Gael's national draw became the most successful of any of the parties -- netting €11.4m in ticket sales over the past decade.

Ms Strain's powers of persuasion have been vital in getting the party's TDs and senators to lead the fundraising efforts. "She has an extremely good relationship with the parliamentary party. She is able to go in and tell someone to get their finger out. There's no bullshit," a TD said.

The party runs an annual dinner in Dublin every November. Last year, tickets for the event attended by 1,200 guests were €120 a head, meaning the party brought in up to €144,000 in ticket sales.

The bulk of the tables are taken by Fine Gael ministers, TDs, senators and councillors. But corporate tables were also taken by the Vintners' Federation of Ireland, the Irish Farmers' Association, accountants Grant Thornton and the Russell Court Hotel.

Irish Independent

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