FG strategy shifts to focus on teamwork

Conference call with local party figures likened to ‘group therapy’

FG’s Richard Bruton and Simon Coveney join candidate Kate O’Connell with their latest poster. photograph: barry cronin

FG’s Richard Bruton and Simon Coveney join candidate Kate O’Connell with their latest poster. photograph: barry cronin


Local Fine Gael organisers have been told to emphasise the strength of their ministerial team in the run-up to polling day as the party attempts to put its campaign back on track.

Brian Hayes, Fine Gael’s national director of elections; Mart Mortell, a senior strategist; and Tom Curran, the party’s general secretary, held a conference call with local party figures on Thursday night.

The call with the directors of elections in each of the 40 constituencies lasted about two hours and one of those on the call compared it to “group therapy”. Mr Curran routinely talks to a handful of local organisers but it is understood Thursday was the first occasion when all 40 were on the call. It came two days after an opinion poll put Fine Gael on 26 per cent, its lowest rating since last year.

Sources said the organisers were told to emphasise the Fine Gael team in the campaign and it is also understood there was a discussion about whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny looked tired on the trail. One source said there was concern about Mr Kenny working long days.

Pitch tweaked

It is also understood the directors of elections were encouraged to recommend transfers to Labour Party candidates as polling day approaches.

The two Coalition partners agreed a vote-transfer pact last year but there has been little evidence of it. In a similar vein, Mr Hayes last night praised Tánaiste Joan Burton’s performance in a broadcast interview.

Speaking yesterday, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton said people must vote with their heads and not with emotion.

“There is a real danger that people will sleepwalk into making choices that will absolutely be a disaster for their future,” Mr Bruton, standing in Dublin Bay North, said. “I can understand people have suffered. There has been extraordinary hurt. People are angry and I can understand why they are angry.

“This election is one in which people’s brains must rule over their emotion. We have to make decisions for the long-term future of our country. This is a really stark choice that people have to make.”

Mr Bruton, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Dublin Bay South candidate Kate O’Connell posed with Fine Gael’s latest advert. It shows a dole queue and the tagline: “Don’t let Fianna Fáil come back to haunt us.”