Flanagan seeks FG views on 'think-in'

Fri, Sep 14, 2012, 01:00

THE PARLIAMENTARY chairman of Fine Gael has written to the party’s 99 TDs and Senators asking for their views on reforming its two-day “think-in” meetings held each September in advance of the Dáil returning.

Charlie Flanagan, a TD for Laois-Offaly, wrote to colleagues this week inviting their views on how the format of the meetings – held in different venues each year – could be changed to make them more relevant and meaningful.

There has been a growing view that the two-day meetings have become dated and no longer fulfil their original purpose of fostering new ideas and policies; as well as allowing the party leadership and backbench TDs share views in a more casual setting.

Mr Flanagan told The Irish Times yesterday it was timely that the format and the manner of the meetings should be examined.

He had contacted every member of the parliamentary party since its own two-day meeting concluded in Westport on Tuesday, and had already received some very positive feedback.

“One of the things that seems important is that the gatherings are more inclusive.

“There has always been a standard format for the bigger parties. They are ‘away-days’ for parliamentarians; there are guest speakers; and the party leader gets an opportunity to address the party ahead of the new Dáil term.

“I felt this year that maybe we had a guest speaker too much. Perhaps we need a greater level of engagement among ourselves behind closed doors,” said Mr Flanagan.

“The original purpose was that the more casual surroundings helped induce a greater level of discourse between Ministers and backbencher.

“The Taoiseach’s message is of great importance too ahead of the new Dáil, like a team manager in the dressingroom before his team takes the field of play.”

Mr Flanagan said that the meetings allowed discourse involving the entire parliamentary party “without having one eye on Leaders’ Question and another on votes in the Chamber”.