FF must carve clearer identity, says McGrath

Party’s frontbench meets today to discuss policy positions for the next election

Michael McGrath: “We must be clearer, better at communicating and we must have very distinct points of difference between us and the other parties”

Michael McGrath: “We must be clearer, better at communicating and we must have very distinct points of difference between us and the other parties”

 

A senior Fianna Fáil TD has warned the party must take more distinctive policy positions to stand out from its rivals if it is to improve on its current performance. The party’s frontbench meets today to begin sketching out the policy positions it will take in preparation for the next election, a process that will feed into its manifesto.

Ahead of the meeting, Michael McGrath, its finance spokesman, said the party needs to take on a stronger voice of its own, rather than to appear too close to the positions of the Government parties and Sinn Féin. It follows on from recent internal worries about the direction the party is taking, and what it can do ahead of the next election.

“We must be clearer, better at communicating and we must have very distinct points of difference between us and the other parties,” he told The Irish Times.

“For me, the important thing is the party has key points of difference with the other political parties in vital policy areas.”

A recent meeting of the parliamentary party to assess the fallout from the Dublin South West and Roscommon-South Leitrim byelections was told by two TDs – Robert Troy and Éamon Ó Cúiv – that it risked becoming the next SDLP. At the same meeting, Dara Calleary, the jobs spokesman, also said a more sceptical approach to polices and regulations from the European Union is needed.

FG challenges

Fine GaelFrances Fitzgerald

Ms Fitzgerald’s letter says: “Following a very well-received budget, which will secure Ireland’s recovery, and help broaden and deepen its impact, it is vital that our party pushes on to . . . ensure that we have done all we can in Government to win the next general election.”

While some in political circles feel the election could be called at any time after the next budget in 2015 – the Coalition’s last – Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeatedly said he wants the Government to see out its full term until spring 2016. The private Fine Gael meetings start this week, with the first in Dublin, and will be attended by the Taoiseach, Ministers, TDs and Senators.

Mr Kenny appointed Ms Fitzgerald chairwoman of Fine Gael’s national strategy committee and she says the party is entering a “critical period”.

“We have a huge opportunity to be returned to government – something we have never achieved before. The election is no more than 18 months away and I am very keen that we give members an opportunity to have their say, at this important phase of election planning.”