Fine Gael TDs told campaign plan already in place for election

Manifesto must be finalised before summer, parliamentary party hears

Simon Coveney: said work had begun on a manifesto last summer and would only have to be updated if an election was called in the morning, although it is not due until spring 2016. Photograph: Collins

Fine Gael already has a campaign plan for the next general election in place, and its manifesto must be finalised before the summer, a special meeting of the parliamentary party was told.

Party TDs and Senators gathered in the Davenport Hotel in Dublin last evening, ahead of the new Dáil term which starts today, and discussed the economy, jobs and preparations for the next election.

Speaking after the meeting, one Cabinet Minister said: “We’re done apologising. We made stupid mistakes last year. There’ll be no repeat of them this year.”

Members of the party’s election strategy briefed the parliamentary party and they later broke into workshop groups to discuss various issues, such as childcare, small and medium enterprises, housing, health and the universal social charge (USC).


There was no mention of the possible return of former strategist Frank Flannery to a senior planning role, and those present said the presence of another backroom figure, Mark Mortell, at the meeting showed he will be one the most influential figures ahead of the election.

Many TDs and Senators said Mr Flannery had damaged himself by giving newspaper and radio interviews over the weekend.

On the issue of election planning, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the manifesto for the next general election must be ready by the summer and the party already had a campaign plan in place.


Mr Coveney said work had begun on a manifesto last summer and would only have to be updated if an election was called in the morning, although it is not due until spring 2016.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan gave an overview of the economy but TDs present said it was significant that he spoke of how the Government was aiming to improve society as well as the economy, which was a theme of the meeting. An example would be focussing on people in negative equity, he said.

Minister for Children James Reilly told TDs and Senators Fine Gael and Labour had "fixed the car" but now had to tell voters where they wanted the car to go.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said it was not enough to simply focus on the next election, and said there was a need to tell the electorate what the Government would do with a second term.

Speaking afterwards, Dr Reilly said it was important everyone “feels” the economic recovery “both in their pockets and in their communities”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed the Government would have a spring statement on the economy.

Updates on progress

Mr Kenny said Government departments would be asked to provided updates on progress made in preparation for the spring statement, expected to take place in April.

Limerick TD Dan Neville, chairman of the parliamentary party, said Fine Gael was conscious of securing the recover but wanted to make sure the benefits were widely felt.

Separately yesterday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the parliamentary whip system was too rigid and should be relaxed.

Mr Flanagan suggested TDs should not be expected to follow the party line on a range of issues, and not only on matters of conscience.

It follows a survey of Fine Gael TDs, carried out as part of research on Dáil reform commissioned by Mr Kenny, which found three out of four TDs favour loosening the whip system. “I do believe that the strict application of a three-line whip often-times is unduly restrictive towards parliamentary debate, parliamentary activity,” Mr Flanagan said.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times