Fine Gael are 'done apologising' for 2014 mistakes, says minister
FINE Gael are "done apologising" for the mistakes of 2014 - and it is now time for the country and the party to move on. That was the view expressed by one senior minister as the party's mini think-in in Dublin broke up last night.
"We are done apologising and it is time to move on. Yes, we made some stupid mistakes, but it is important there is no repeat of them," the minister said.
The meeting discussed electoral strategy, taxation policy, as well as health matters in workshop groups, directed by party advisor Mark Mortell.
It also discussed plans to further reduce the Universal Social Charge. According to several sources, talk of Frank Flannery's role did not arise, but at the conclusion of the meeting Children's Minister James Reilly said Mr Flannery was free to give his views, as was any member of the party.
Former Secretary General of the Department of Finance John Moran was seen talking with several ministers, including Minister Michael Noonan, before dinner. Earlier, Mr Noonan gave a presentation on the state of the economy. He also said it was impossible to know if Lucinda Creighton's new party would damage Fine Gael, as it doesn't have any policies yet.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the Fine Gael whip system was too rigid and should be relaxed.
"I do believe that there's scope in certain circumstances to relax what has become a rigid parliamentary device," he said.
Asked if he was calling for free votes on conscience issues, Mr Flanagan suggested he would be inclined to go further.
"I'm not really sure that I would restrict it to certain issues that can be categorised as moral or conscience issues."
However, Junior Finance minister Simon Harris did not agree, saying: "Would we have been able to get the country to where it now is at without the whip system?"
It follows a survey of Fine Gael TDs which found three out of every four deputies favour loosening the whip.