Saturday 21 April 2018

Coalition arguments on abortion 'put through focus groups first'

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE controversial abortion legislation and the arguments used by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other senior government figures on the divisive issue were filtered through an expensive, marketing-style group, it has been revealed.

The disclosure in a new book on the Coalition has been described as "typical" of the way Fine Gael does its business – both in government and opposition – by TDs who left the parliamentary party over the abortion vote.

Mr Kenny has faced constant criticism from within his ranks for making so many policy decisions because of so-called focus groups, which essentially test policies against sample groups of voters.

The process is very expensive, and Fine Gael is the only party that can afford to carry out this kind of research on a consistent basis.

The book by journalist Pat Leahy (pictured), called 'The Price of Power – Inside Ireland's Crisis Coalition', says former European affairs minister Lucinda Creighton was told the abortion legislation had been put through focus groups to make sure the public would support it.

"Later, when she tried to argue that introducing the legislation would be electorally disastrous, Creighton learned from a high-ranking party official that both the bill, and the language that Kenny and the ministers were using, had been run through focus groups to ensure maximum public acceptability," Mr Leahy's book states.

"As ever, Kenny's machine was leaving nothing to chance."

However, one TD who, like Ms Creighton left Fine Gael over the abortion legislation issue, said this was typical of Mr Kenny's approach.

"It's the same with the Seanad, they just decided to abolish that because there was a bad opinion poll," the TD said.

However, another Coalition source explained: "I imagine it was because they (Fine Gael) were very sensitive on that issue."

Irish Independent

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