Fianna Fáil strategist says party is unlikely to be in next government

New director of elections Billy Kelleher rules out support for Fine Gael minority

Fianna Fáil director of elections  Billy Kelleher  at Leinster House. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

Fianna Fáil director of elections Billy Kelleher at Leinster House. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Fianna Fáil is unlikely to be part of the next government, the party’s new director of elections Billy Kelleher has implicitly acknowledged.

Speaking on The Irish Times political podcast, Inside Politics, yesterday, he also ruled out supporting a Fine Gael minority government on key votes.

In the frankest remarks so far by a senior figure about Fianna Fáil’s post-election strategy, he said the party would “probably” go into opposition if it was not the largest grouping in any new coalition.

The minimum number of seats required to form a government in the next Dáil will be 79. Mr Kelleher said Fianna Fáil, currently with 21 seats, could secure about 40 “on a very good day”.

“We want to be the largest party. We want to lead the next government, but the public will decide that.

Inside Politics: Fianna Fáil's future

“If we fall short in that ambition, clearly then you are probably in opposition, and we will continue to build,” he told The Irish Times.

Major achievement

Asked how many seats the party could expect in the next Dáil, Mr Kelleher said more than 35 would represent a major achievemet.

“There are 40 constituencies. We aim to be competitive in every constituency. So a figure of that, or around that, would be something that I would consider a very good day for the party.”

Mr Kelleher firmly rejected the possibility of Fianna Fáil going into coalition with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin, and also ruled out a “Tallaght-style strategy”, under which the party would support a minority government from the Opposition benches.

The Tallaght strategy took its name from the policy pursued by Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes between 1987 and 1989 when he allowed Charles Haughey to be taoiseach so long as he followed a set budgetary plan.

Mr Kelleher said Fianna Fáil would be campaigning to remove Fine Gael from office, and it would not be credible to go into coalition with it after the election.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last week appointed Mr Kelleher as the party’s director of elections following the resignation of former minister Pat Carey from the position.

Referring to former Fine Gael director of elections Phil Hogan’s 2011 appeal to Fianna Fáil voters to lend his party their votes for one election, Mr Kelleher said: “I can tell Phil Hogan now I’m calling in that loan.”