Monday 21 May 2018

'We need to be prepared once an election is called' - Fine Gael ministers told to ramp up fundraising efforts to cut party's debt

Tom Curran, Fine Gael's general secretary. Photo: Tom Burke
Tom Curran, Fine Gael's general secretary. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fine Gael ministers believe the prospect of an early general election has increased after being issued with a stark warning surrounding the party's finances.

Ministers were summoned to a meeting by the party's general secretary, Tom Curran, during which the need to significantly increase fundraising efforts in order to reduce the level of debt was discussed.

The meeting held before yesterday's sitting of Cabinet was also attended by trustees of the party, who have in recent weeks met to discuss the fallout from the John Perry affair.

The party was last year saddled with a significant six-figure legal bill after settling a High Court challenge initiated by the former junior minister.

The decision by Fine Gael to settle on the steps of the court after five days of hearings has seriously impacted on the party's finances.

Tensions have remained between the party leadership and Mr Perry.

Meanwhile, sources present at yesterday's meeting said there was an emphasis placed on ministers ramping up their own fundraising efforts.

The staging of more breakfast events and other fundraisers was discussed.

"It was made clear that we needed to be financially prepared once an election is called," said one source.

While there was no prediction that an election is imminent, yesterday's warning has heightened such a prospect in the eyes of ministers.

Various sources across Fine Gael believe the party's finances are in a very poor state and that this could put them on the backfoot if an early general election takes place.

Senior positions within Fine Gael have been filled only recently, having been left void for months.

Some Fine Gael ministers have appointed advisers who previously served as staff in the party's headquarters.

Yesterday's meeting was held just days after Fine Gael bosses surprised TDs and senators by announcing an increase in the fee to join the party from €15 to €20.

At last week's parliamentary party meeting, Mr Curran also revealed Fine Gael is scrapping a special rate for the "unwaged", who previously secured a discounted membership.

Mr Curran told his TDs and senators that the recent controversy surrounding election donations proved "embarrassing" for the party.

Without singling out a member by name, Mr Curran told a Fine Gael meeting last Wednesday that such controversies must not dog the party again in the future.

Earlier this month, it emerged the party's deputy leader and senator James Reilly was among 66 general election candidates to be referred to gardaí by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

Dr Reilly, the former health and children's minister, accepted a €1,000 cash donation. Dr Reilly returned €800 but failed to file the correct paperwork - which led to the SIPO ruling. He said it was an oversight on his part.

Irish Independent

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