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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Election 2016

8 things we learned at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis

Everything from why Richie Kavanagh was there to how the party will arrange for an independent watchdog to keep them in line.

16/01/2016.77u Fianna Fail Ard Fheis. Pictured FF Sam Boal / Teddy bears on sale at the Ard Fheis today. Sam Boal / /

FIANNA FÁIL DESCENDED on Citywest Hotel in Co Dublin for the party’s 77th Ard Fheis today just weeks out from the general election.

Hundreds of delegates attended the one-day event as the party begins ramping up its pre-election rhetoric.

Here’s what we learnt from today’s meeting.

It wasn’t your usual Ard Fheis

16/01/2016.77u Fianna Fail Ard Fheis. Pictured Cao Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

“Sure this is all about drinking,” was one councillor’s blunt assessment of today’s event.

With no motions to be debated and voted on and no elections for the party’s various internal committees, this was very much a pre-election rally of the party faithful ahead of the election.

It’s only just beginning

Éamon Ó Cuív set the tone in one of the first speeches of the day by saying Fianna Fáil isn’t in damage control mode. It could take the approach of conceding that it will not be a majority party after the general election, and instead attempt to grab what seats it can. The party’s policy positions instead state that it is out to lead the next government.

“People in the media are talking as though the election is already over,” Ó Cuív said.

It’s only beginning.

Micheál Martin thinks he’s worth an extra €30,000 a year

Fianna Fail Ard Fheis PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

Responding to a report in today’s Irish Independent, Martin said an extra taxpayer-funded payment he receives as leader of the opposition is just and “above board”, having been approved by the party’s board of trustees:

I think it is in respect of the extra duties that the leader of the opposition has.

Fianna Fáil will have someone making sure it keeps its promises

While Renua has said it could act as a “watchdog” in government, Fianna Fáil is going to bring in its own. In his keynote speech, Martin explained that everything the government commits to will be subject to “independent analysis”. This will include assessing how much budget proposals will cost and the effect it will have on economic growth.

Guards love Richie Kavanagh and Richie Kavanagh loves Fianna Fáil

The singer – whose latest single is My Girlfriend Has a New iPhone – was pressing the flesh today. He told that he’s out supporting his local candidate, councillor Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, even driving up the side of Mount Leinster during a canvass for her.

While Fianna Fáil faces an uphill battle in Dublin, this man could take a seat

10/4/2015 Fianna Fail 1916 Moore Street Redevelopments Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

Ballymun Councillor Paul McAuliffe has seen his share of votes in recent elections grow since he first took a seat on his local council with the Progressive Democrats back in in 2004.

McAuliffe gave one of the most rousing speeches of the day during a talk on Making Communities Safer. The cheers were loudest when he proclaimed a Sinn Féin TD could never be justice minister, saying the guards haven’t forgotten the damage inflicted by the IRA. The reaction he received could indicate he’s in line to perform strongly in Dublin North-West, where he is the only Fianna Fáil candidate running.

We need to talk about government

Micheál Martin lashed Fine Gael and Labour in his keynote speech but mentioned Sinn Féin only once, and that was in relation to the North. Martin maintains that his party is offering an alternative to the current coalition but will not, he insists, do business with the other main opposition party.

Some members we spoke to today didn’t like the idea of governing with Gerry Adams’s party, but pointed out that by having so stridently ruled out Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil is, on current poll numbers, effectively ruling itself out of government and resigning itself to opposition in the 32nd Dáil.

But if they are in government, we’re not getting “unicorns and ponies”

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Echoing the Fianna Fáil’s view that its getting a little fed up with ‘coalitionology’, Professor Tim Bale told delegates that the party is taking the right approach by focusing on policies.

The University of London politics professor said the public care more about bread-and-butter topics rather than the latest poll results (which Fianna Fáil won’t ignore – it makes for positive reading). Bale said the proposals put forward by the party are concrete rather than focusing on “unicorns and ponies”.

With contributions from Hugh O’Connell.

Read: There’s bad news for Fine Gael and Labour in the latest polls >

More: Catch all of our election coverage over at Election Centre >

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