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Fine Gael is 'done apologising'

The party held a four-hour meeting in Dublin yesterday where there was apparently no dissent among members.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (File photo)
Taoiseach Enda Kenny (File photo)
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

FINE GAEL is “done apologising”, a cabinet minister said last night at the end of what was widely described as a positive and productive parliamentary party meeting.

Fine Gael held a four-hour meeting at at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin city centre yesterday afternoon.

TDs and Senators were briefed on the economy and Fine Gael’s election strategy ahead of the resumption of the Dáil and an election which is expected next year.

As the political season resumes in earnest today, Fine Gael will be looking to move on from the myriad of crises that impacted the party’s support in 2014.

“We’re done apologising, it’s time to move on. We made stupid mistakes last year. There’ll be no repeat of them this year,” the cabinet minister said.

Yesterday’s meeting, described as a mini-think-in, saw TDs and Senators divided into workshops that were devised by the party’s increasingly influential strategist Mark Mortell.

Afterwards, deputy leader James Reilly said there had been a “very good debate” on issues such as housing, childcare and health. He claimed there had been no dissent at all in the meeting.

“I think it’s critically important that that should be our focus because every single job means financial independence for another person, for their family,” the Children’s Minister told reporters afterwards.

It means more money circulating in their community, it means a restoration of dignity and self-esteem and it also means €20,000 less to spend in social protection.

In seeking to regain the agenda party figures repeatedly insisted last night that much of yesterday’s discussions focused on how to make people feel the benefit of the economic recovery, with few wishing to discuss any internal disquiet over Fine Gael’s torrid 2014.

The Flannery question

There was no discussion at yesterday’s meeting on the possible return of former strategist Frank Flannery with TDs divided over the merits of the former Rehab Group lobbyist coming back into the fold.

Several ministers insisted that the Fine Gael national election strategy committee, headed by Frances Fitzgerald, is already in place and working effectively, indicating there would be no formal role for Flannery.

Reilly added: “He’s a man of considerable experience, as we know, and he will have some great ideas to put forward  perhaps, and he can do that in the normal way.”

Party chairman Dan Neville insisted that as an ordinary member of the party Flannery “is inside the tent”. But other TDs were sceptical about his possible return, one deputy describing him as “toxic”.

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Though the party has not identified exactly how many candidates it will running in the next general election, a source said that Fine Gael was still gathering information from around the country as to who will and will not be running. There are indications that several TDs may not seek re-election for various reasons, including retirement.

One rural-based backbencher said that those who do want to be re-elected would be primarily focussed on ensuring that from now until the election.

They said this would mean that the majority of their time would be devoted to their constituency in the coming months.

“We have 15 months to save our jobs so we won’t be hanging around Dublin on a Thursday night. Our whole week will be geared towards the weekend and getting on the doors,” the TD said.

- Órla Ryan contributed reporting

Read: Most Fine Gael TDs want to loosen the whip, but one junior minister isn’t so sure

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