News Politics

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Kenny's plan is to target Martin in election run-in

Fine Gael strategists want to isolate FF in campaign

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Fine Gael's National Conference 2015 in the TF Royal Hotel Castlebar. Photo: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Fine Gael's National Conference 2015 in the TF Royal Hotel Castlebar. Photo: Mark Condren
Ger Deere with James Waldron preparing for the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan
Gardai at the hotel which is hosting the Fine Gael Conference in Castlebar.

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny plans to target Micheal Martin to ensure Fianna Fáil remain out of the voters minds for the formation of the next government.

Mr Kenny's strategists want to make the make the general election a straight choice between an administration lead by Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.

Fine Gael will tell the voters the recovery is underway - but it will be put at risk if there is a change of policy.

"The recovery is incomplete and fragile and at risk," a senior party source said.

The party plans to warn the voters of the "chaotic alternative of those who wrecked the economy twice in Fianna Fáil and those will wreck it on the left and Sinn Féin", a senior party source said.

"The more we attack Fianna Fáil and their record, the more you get a polarisation of choice.

"You don't achieve that polarisation by constantly taking on Sinn Féin. You do it by reminding people of Fianna Fáil's record. As long as Fianna Fáil are down at 18-19pc, it's just about Fine Gael or Sinn Féin."

In his opening address to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis last night, Mr Kenny honed his attack on Mr Martin's party, without mentioning Sinn Féin at all.

"After the economic devastation Fianna Fáil wreaked upon rural Ireland, there are better times ahead. Fine Gael and Labour, in partnership with the people, will ensure that 2015 becomes the year of rural recovery.

"A time when jobs and investment flow in greater numbers into all parts of Ireland. But our job is far from over. Not until we create the conditions for our sons and daughters to return from afar. We must continue the course, build on our successes, and secure recovery for our people," he said.

Mr Kenny said the Government's job is to secure the recovery for all the people of Ireland.

"We still have far too many families who have yet to feel the benefits of recovery, which means our job is far from done.

"This weekend will see an intense focus on the ways we can ensure that recovery touches every family, every business, and every corner of Ireland.

"We cannot let it bypass families or communities on the basis of their location," he said.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton will today continue that theme today by warning the policies of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Independents would scupper the economic recovery.

He will tell party delegates the approaches of the opposition would "jeopardise economic growth and all the benefits, in terms of lower taxes and improved public services, that come with it".

The Dublin North-Central TD will say Ireland stands on the cusp of delivering full employment on a sustainable basis "for the first time in my lifetime".

Meanwhile, former Fine Gael advisor Frank Flannery has made a renewed offer to Mr Kenny to bring him back into the party fold.

Mr Flannery, who is not at the party's national conference, said his relationship with Fine Gael is a "developing scenario" and refused to rule out taking up an advisory role ahead of the election.

He told the Irish Independent the Government must fight against "all corners" of the political spectrum, including the rise of Sinn Féin and left-wing parties.

He said that he is willing to assist Fine Gael in winning the election and preventing what he described as "mass instability".

"I consider it of enormous national importance that this Government is re-elected and I will do everything I can, in whatever role is asked of me, to assist in that," he said.

"The stability of the economic recovery cannot be put at risk and the country cannot be brought to a point of mass instability.

"If Fine Gael want me to assist them then I'd be happy to do that," he added.

Enda's links to Castlebar 

* Enda Kenny's family links to Castlebar date back to the turn of the last century. Grandfather Anthony and his wife Bridget ran a bar and grocery there. They also had a concession to sell bottled beers on fair days from a tent on the Fairgreen.

* His father, Henry Kenny, grew up in Castlebar and starred with the local Mitchels football club and Mayo, winning an All-Ireland in 1936.

* Enda Kenny grew up in Islandeady, five miles from Castlebar, where his father taught school before entering politics in 1954. But he attended secondary school in Castlebar at St Gerald's De La Salle from 1963 to 1968. His constituency office in Tucker Street is a town fixture.

* Castlebar's TF, and adjoining Theatre Royal, hosted many Kenny and Fine Gael highs and lows over the last 40 years. In June 2002, Kenny arrived at a general election count there with his resignation speech in his pocket. Only an unexpected sequence of eliminations saved his Dáil seat by dozens of votes in count eight.

* A capacity crowd of over 2,000 people at the Theatre Royal welcomed him home as Taoiseach on March 12, 2011. This is the auditorium where he will address Ard Fheis delegates, and a national radio and television audience tonight.

Irish Independent

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