Fine Gael tells Dáil hopefuls to ask voters for their trust
Fine Gael is to play up the idea that they are the party "to be trusted" during the general election campaign.
Candidates were told last night to consistently emphasise the need for trust while out canvassing.
At a special meeting of all Fine Gael election candidates, senior strategists said the election will be won on the issues of jobs, the economy and the pledge to provide better services.
The meeting in Dublin was addressed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, senior strategist Mark Mortell and MEP Brian Hayes, who has been appointed the party's director of elections.
An upbeat Mr Kenny spoke off the cuff, telling his candidates to emphasise the importance of returning the current Fine Gael/Labour Coalition.
"The Taoiseach urged us to stay on message and to keep talking up the economy above everything else," said a source.
Mr Mortell gave a presentation to candidates, entitled 'Who do you trust to keep recovery going?' - illustrating that the issue of trust will be central to the party's election strategy.
TDs, senators and councillors were also told to sell the party's three-pronged economic message - more jobs, making work pay and better services.
They were told that Fine Gael intends to ensure all policies are fully costed before the campaign gets into full swing.
The party is considering adding candidates in six further constituencies as it aims to finalise its general election ticket.
The party has currently selected 83 candidates - 24 of whom are women.
Party strategists say they are up to three women short of meeting the gender quota targets, which have also posed serious challenges for Fianna Fáil.
At a meeting of Fine Gael's election strategy committee yesterday, which was attended by Mr Kenny, it was confirmed that additional candidates may be added in six constituencies.
These include Cork North Central, Clare and Dublin Fingal - the constituency home of Children's Minister and Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly.
Candidates also look set to be added in Donegal, Wexford and Louth. However, party sources said a final decision will be made this week in relation to which of the six constituencies are chosen for female additions.
The same sources stressed that they are prepared for a backlash from some party members who will be overlooked in the coming days.
This is likely to happen in Cork North Central, where a female candidate is being lined up to run alongside European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy.
Mr Murphy's constituency colleague, Senator Colm Burke, missed out by just a handful of votes at the selection convention.
Despite expressing his desire to be added to the ticket, a female candidate is likely to be chosen instead.
A similar scenario looks set to unfold in the four-seat Clare constituency.
The two sitting TDs, Joe Carey and Pat Breen, have already been selected.
If the party adds a female candidate, it is likely to spark a backlash from the two sitting senators, Martin Conway and Tony Mulcahy.