No cull of sitting FG TDs, despite fears over gender quota
A Fine Gael election planning committee has been told there would be no cull of sitting TDs despite fears that gender quotas would force members into retirement.
There was widespread panic among TDs after the Irish Independent revealed Fine Gael headquarters offered special election training to female councillors.
Male TDs feared the 30pc gender quota for candidates meant they would be asked to make way to allow female members contest the next election.
However, last Wednesday, the party's internal election committee meeting, which was chaired by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, was told all current Dáil deputies would be allowed run in the next general election.
"No existing TD will be culled unless they wish to retire - they will be consulted on their wishes," a party source told the Irish Independent.
"What is a serious matter for every party is this bloody 30pc legal requirement of women for every party and it's going to stretch everybody," the source added.
MEP Brian Hayes has been tasked with heading up a candidate selection sub-committee and will speak to TDs about their intentions.
Each member's view and the difficulties the party faces in their constituencies will be collated and form the basis for future candidate selection.
Fine Gael sources expect up to three sitting TDs to retire ahead of the next election.
The party could lose around €2m if it fails to meet the candidate quota. To meet the quota, the party will be forced to parachute female candidates into constituencies on top of serving TDs and risk splitting the vote.
Last week's election committee meeting was told the councillor training course was offered to all party members in local authorities, but it was mostly female politicians who put their names forward.
However, one of the councillors who took part in the training said they were personally asked to take part by senior party officials.
"I was called a couple of times and told it would be beneficial to sign up," the councillor told the Irish Independent.
The coaching sessions included talks from the Taoiseach's adviser Andrew McDowell and media training from Terry Prone's Communications Clinic.
All councillors and non-elected members interested in running in future elections will be free to take up the training in the coming months.
So far 24 potential candidates took part in the training - this included 17 female and seven male members of the party.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney is overseeing a sub-committee on policy, Health Minister Leo Varadkar is in charge of communications and Children's Minister James Reilly is over party organisation.
The sub-committees also include a number of TDs and Senators who will all report back to Minister Fitzgerald.
Fine Gael strategist Mark Mortell, who has been described as the new Frank Flannery, is heavily involved in the election committee, as is the party's general secretary Tom Curran.