Sunday 22 September 2019

Fine Gael's ordinary members to seek veto on a coalition with SF

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Justin Farrelly
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Justin Farrelly
John Downing

John Downing

Fine Gael rank-and-file members are set to throw up a big block in the way of any future coalition government with Sinn Féin.

Delegates at the party's ard fheis are expected to tomorrow back a motion obliging the party leadership to call a special delegate conference after a general election to approve any coalition deal and a related programme for government.

Conference organisers expect the move, also proposed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his leadership campaign in 2017, will be passed. Party sources note that while TDs, keen for power and government office, might more easily opt to break the taboo on sharing government with Sinn Féin - the ordinary members would be almost impossible to win over.

One source said the rule change was one of the most fundamental changes in decades. But it is also notable that the rule change has its limitations because the TDs and senators will retain 50pc of the weighted vote at any potential delegate conference, while the party's executive council would have another 10pc.

In a vote-structure that mirrors the electoral college system which now picks the party leader, the remainder of the vote would be split between the members with 25pc, and 15pc for councillors.

Some 2,500 delegates are registered for the national conference, which opens at City West Hotel on the edge of Dublin city this evening.

The Fine Gael party chairman, Kildare South TD Martin Heydon, said the party members were looking forward to the gathering and were in good form and preparing for local and European Parliament elections next May.

Mr Heydon played down speculation that this could also be the party's last ard fheis before a general election.

"We want to continue with the current government arrangement until summer of 2020 to avoid political uncertainty, and we are currently negotiating with Fianna Fáil in pursuit of that," he said.

The party chairman said membership now also represented the wide cultural diversity of Irish society.

Irish Independent

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

Also in this section