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FG photocall cancelled 'because too few TDs would attend'

Fine Gael’s photo op to mark one year in power wasn’t cancelled because of a mix-up – but because nobody wanted to go.

A Fine Gael photocall during the election campaign: a similar event for TDs and Senators, set for yesterday, was scrapped with four hours' notice.
A Fine Gael photocall during the election campaign: a similar event for TDs and Senators, set for yesterday, was scrapped with four hours' notice.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE FINE GAEL photocall due to take place yesterday afternoon was cancelled not because of a communications mix-up over whether Labour were holding a similar one – but because only a dozen party members were actually set to attend.

The party abandoned the proposed event yesterday morning following assertions from communications minister Pat Rabbtite that the event was “silly” and he hoped it would be a one-off, while reservations were also raised at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

But it has since emerged that the primary concern behind the event was that opposition from TDs and Senators to the event meant that turnout at the event was likely to be low – with only a dozen of the party’s 94 TDs and Senators likely to attend.

Unnamed party TDs yesterday said this was because members were fearful of being seen to celebrate the party’s first year in power since 1997, an image which would have left them looking, as one TD said, “utterly removed from reality”.

Another TD said members had assumed the event had been cancelled on Wednesday evening – when attendees at the weekly meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party had objected to the event, without anyone supporting it.

“It was the last item brought up at the meeting,” the TD said. “We thought it was agreed by consensus - one TD said it, everyone else nodded, and nobody said anything different.”

The TD said many members only learned that the event was still going ahead when it was discussed on Morning Ireland yesterday – and when Labour communications minister Pat Rabbitte scorned the event, which would have seen FG members hold coloured stars (derived from the party logo) praising their achievements after 366 days in power.

‘Different planet’

“It would have looked like we were living on a different planet,” one TD said yesterday. “Anyone out there hurting, looking at 50 TDs and Senators celebrating a year in government… it would have been a disaster.”

That backbencher suggesting that Fine Gael should have simply admitted the event was a bad idea instead of cancelling it following Labour’s public criticism.

“Governments make mistakes. There was no need to make up a reason why we didn’t go ahead with it,” they added.

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Another TD said that while they did not know who had arranged the event, the idea had not come from within the Fine Gael backbenches.

Although it’s reported in newspapers today that Enda Kenny had attended Wednesday’s meeting – meaning he would have been aware of the event before yesterday morning, when he said he had first heard of it – TDs said the Taoiseach had not been in attendance for the entirety of the meeting. understands that Kenny attended another meeting on Wednesday evening relating to the turf-cutting motion going through the Dáil, and that he may not have been present for the end of the FG meeting when concerns were raised about the photocall.

Kenny himself said yesterday that he had personally taken the decision to cancel the event when he learned of it on Thursday morning.

More: FG cancels ‘year in power’ photocall after Rabbitte criticises ‘silly’ event

Read: Gilmore criticised for “back-slapping fest” to mark one-year anniversary

In full: How has the Government REALLY done in its first year? This is how.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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