Fine Gael to overhaul strategies after local election target shortfall

Review may result in some general election candidates being taken off tickets, say TDs

Paschal Donohoe is Fine Gael’s director of organisation and will be its director of elections for the general election. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Paschal Donohoe is Fine Gael’s director of organisation and will be its director of elections for the general election. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

Fine Gael is to review general election strategies in constituencies across the country following the local elections, with Ministers suggesting some candidates could be deselected.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party earlier this week that he would begin the review soon, which many TDs took to mean that some general election candidates could be taken off tickets.

“I presume it would,” said one Minister. “There is no room for passengers anymore.” Others cautioned that it was too early to say anything about potential changes.

Fine Gael won an extra 20 seats in the local elections, reaching a total of 255 seats. It had initially hoped to overtake Fianna Fáil as the largest party of local government and win an extra 50 seats, but fell short of this target.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the extra 20 seats was not a “bad day at the office after all”. He had earlier expressed disappointment with Fine Gael’s local election showing, particularly around Dublin.

Party sources separately expressed concern about some areas of the capital where Fine Gael had hoped to gain two Dáil seats, but now only had one.

Party meetings

A number of party meetings this week assessed the local and European elections, where Fine Gael had a successful result and is likely to return five MEPs.

Mr Donohoe is Fine Gael’s director of organisation and will be its director of elections for the general election. He told TDs and Senators the party would have to assess constituency strategies in light of the local election results.

Although the Dublin Central TD did not elaborate further, many in the party took it to mean that line-ups which were settled would be revised. One senior TD argued that many Fine Gael tickets had been completed in the frenzied few days in November 2017 when a row between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over the position of former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald threatened to push the country toward a Christmas general election. At the time, Fine Gael was also polling in the mid-30s but has since slipped back.

“Half our conventions were done at that time [Fianna Fáil TD] Jim O’Callaghan went on the RTÉ news [backing a no-confidence vote in Ms Fitzgerald],” said one TD. “These tickets were all put together then. Things have changed, they have moved on.”

Party sources suggested the position of local election candidates who were lined up to run for the Dáil but underperformed in the local elections could be reexamined, as could the place of a number of Senators on general election tickets.