Flannery says FG local campaign ‘one of the worst’ ever

Former FG strategist claims ‘human empathy and emotion’ are missing from current Government

Former Fine Gael strategist and Rehab chief executive Frank Flannery has sharply criticised the party’s local election campaign as “one of the worst” he has ever seen.  File Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Former Fine Gael strategist and Rehab chief executive Frank Flannery has sharply criticised the party’s local election campaign as “one of the worst” he has ever seen. File Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 19:48

Former Fine Gael strategist and Rehab chief executive Frank Flannery has sharply criticised the party’s local election campaign as “one of the worst” he ever saw.

Mr Flannery, speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, also said it was “increasingly” the destiny of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to come together.

The same applies to Sinn Féin and The Labour Party, he said, in a realignment of Irish politics on a Left-Right split.

Mr Flannery said an analysis of votes over recent elections proved the Irish electorate wanted such a move.

He was speaking during a discussion on whether the political landscape has changed utterly or not at all following the recent local and European elections.

Mr Flannery said Fine Gael, while in power, has traditionally “got sucked into the system” to the detriment of its identity as a party with the “exact same” happening in this Government, to his “surprise”.

“They have been ineffective in elections since they went into Government by and large, with the exception of some very well run by-elections but, if you just recall back to the presidential election, the party pulled 7 per cent of the national vote some months after getting 36 per cent of the vote in a general election,” Mr Flannery said.

“I’ll tell you, that took some ingenuity to achieve a result like that. The recent local elections probably, as an election campaign, was, in my honest view, one of the worst I ever saw. We had the Seanad referendum. That was hardly a glorious effort for a party that actually brought it in as a significant and a major reform.”

He said the relationship between Fine Gael in Government and the party in the rest of the country, such as councillors, organisations and those who knock on doors, as well as with backbench TDs, has become “fractured”.

Fine Gael “govern almost like an extension of the civil service” but must go to the country as a party, not a government, Mr Flannery said.

He also claimed “human empathy and emotion” are missing from the Government today.

“For Fine Gael the idea of government, the act of governing, are the holy of holies, these cannot and must not be ‘contaminated’ by the politics of the party. It is a noble principle, but for the party, in practical terms, it has proved to be a problem, in that they get sucked into ‘the system’.”

The party in power loses its sense of “the raw politics of the party”, he added, but said Fine Gael is in a still in a good position going into the next general election.

“I still think though it is strategically in a good position to look at the next election with some considerable possibilities. It has to get away from this sacred, almost fetishistic position of being a party that does the business of the State to being the party that does the business of the nation and contacting closely with the people of the nation.”