Friday 22 March 2019

Fine Gael ramps up election planning as relationship with Fianna Fáil deteriorates

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: PA
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: PA

Philip Ryan and Laura Larkin

Fine Gael has designed three distinctly different candidate posters in case a general election is held on the same day as the local and European votes.

The party took the decision to design three different styles of posters to ensure voters can tell the difference between general, local and European candidates if all the elections take place on the same day in May.

The decision was taken by party chiefs who have ramped up election preparations in recent weeks as relations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have deteriorated.

It is understood that Fine Gael has also sought the services of long-time party activist and election strategist Mark Mortel. He has provided election briefings to key staff members in recent weeks and discussed campaign slogans.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has ruled out a general election in 2019, irrespective of any extension to the Brexit timeline.

Mr Martin said it was a "no brainer" for the confidence and supply deal to be extended in light of Brexit. He said any Brexit extension would probably be only until June or July, adding that he had committed to giving the Government space for 2019.

"The Irish political system - notwithstanding jibes and things like that - has stood the test in terms of understanding critical, almost existential threats to the nation and rising above party politics," he said.

Mr Martin rejected a suggestion from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that Fianna Fail may not have extended the deal if it was further ahead in the polls as a "jibe".

"The Taoiseach should focus on his job. He doesn't need to be obsessed by Fianna Fail," he said.

Mr Martin also hit out at Mr Varadkar's language about the rights of Irish people in Northern Ireland last year, when he said they would never be overlooked again.

The Fianna Fail leader said that at the time he did not believe the language was "apt" and that it elevated the discussion to a constitutional one for people in Northern Ireland.

"Some of that upped the ante in terms of the subsequent reactions to the declaration last December and the agreement. It elevated the whole debate to constitutional issues," he said.

The Ard Fheis will focus on the upcoming local and European elections and Mr Martin said the party planned to win a seat in Europe in each constituency.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section