FG to consider new rules for entering coalition amid election warning

Special party conference may have to approve FG government deals

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will address the Fine Gael ard fheis on Saturday evening. File photograph: Lorraine Teevan/PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will address the Fine Gael ard fheis on Saturday evening. File photograph: Lorraine Teevan/PA

 

A special party conference will have to ratify Fine Gael’s future participation in coalition or confidence and supply governments under a new rule to be considered by the party’s ard fheis this weekend.

The party gathers in the City West Hotel in Dublin for its latest party conference as senior party figures warn a general election could be held at any time.

At present, Fine Gael’s participation in government only has to be ratified by its parliamentary party. A motion before the ard fheis calls for special delegate conferences to be held in future to give the final say on Fine Gael entering office.

However, the special conference to ratify a programme for government will not give every party member a vote. Instead, a vote to approve government participation will be decided by an electoral college which still leaves the parliamentary party - TDs, senators and MEPs - with the whip hand on the decision.

The electoral college to approve or reject a programme for government will give the parliamentary party 50 per cent voting weight; 25 per cent to ten members sent from each Dáil constituency to the delegate conference; 15 per cent to the party’s council of local representatives, which represents councillors; and the remaining 10 per cent to Fine Gael the executive council.

The proposed rule says the special conference will be asked to vote on both coalition and “partnership” governments, defined as “an arrangement whereby Fine Gael is enabled to enter into Government supported by a party, grouping, or individual/s from the opposition”.

“Following a general election where Fine Gael are entering into a partnership and or coalition Government a special delegate conference will be held,” the proposed new rule says. “The Special Delegate Conference shall be held to approve the programme for government.” Such a conference will be organised by the Fine Gael executive council.

The clár for this weekend’s ard fheis, which concludes with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s leader’s address at teatime on Saturday, also contains warnings to members that a general election could happen at any time.

In his note to members, Tom Curran, the Fine Gael general secretary, says: “As we approach the end of the year, we are preparing for the Local and European Elections which are scheduled to happen in 2019 - and preparing also for a General Election, which could happen at any time.”

Brian Murphy, Mr Varadkar’s chief of staff, is running for election for the executive council and, in his pitch to members, says the executive council “will need to liaise closely with the membership as we prepare for the forthcoming local and European elections, as well as continuing preparations for a General Election, whenever that might arise”.