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Purpose of Fine Gael election campaign review is not to 'hang, draw or quarter'

Two reports reviewing the party’s election performance were discussed at today’s Fine Gael think-in in Kildare.

FINE GAEL WANTS to learn from their mistakes of the past in order to become a “modern party” fit for 2016.

Two reports reviewing the party’s election performance were discussed at today’s Fine Gael think-in in Kildare.

An examination by Marion Coy, a former head of the Galway-Mayo Institute, made 11 recommendations to the party on how to address some of the key issues which led to the poor results at the ballot box.

Another report – from party TDs – was presented to members by Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell during the Building for the Future session.

‘Positive’ discussion

It’s understood discussions in the room were “positive” and that people were enthusiastic about improving the party.

Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty said the purpose of both reports “is to learn from some of the things we got wrong”.

I know some of them are obvious, but others are not.

She said the party has to look at the organisation “to see how we need to change”.

12/9/2016. Fine Gael Think-In 2016. L to R. Taoise Source: Eamonn Farrell

O’Connell said the report from TDs is subjective.

It is people’s views and opinions, not scientific fact.

She said it looks at where the party “went wrong” in the last election, and ”how we lost so many seats”.

General election losses 

While confidence was high on the campaign trail, the shock loss of 20 seats was a blow.

Director of Elections Brian Hayes conceded that the party underestimated how unpopular it had become.

However, in June, Hayes was slow to admit to TheJournal.ie that there was even a semblance of failure in his campaign.

“My objective was to get Enda back in as Taoiseach and to get Fine Gael back in government and that has been achieved,” he said during an interview.

‘Let’s keep the recovery going’

The party’s mantra during the election was “Let’s keep the recovery going” – which received a lot of criticism for refusing to acknowledge that a lot of people were not feeling any sort of recovery.

Subsequently, the Ireland edition of The Times reported that tweets sent from the official Fine Gael account during the final days of the general election that referenced the party’s ability to “keep the recovery going” have since been deleted.

“The purpose of it [the report] wasn’t to hang, draw or quarter anyone, it was to look to the future. It is a positive document,” said O’Connell.

She said the report’s main focus was on the party’s failure to communicate to the electorate.

People’s view is that we had serious issues with our communications – communicating to the public through yourselves [the media] as well as we could have.
We probably don’t as a party engage with our grassroots party members enough.
To some extent, people get involved in a political party to try and bring their opinions to the table and one of the findings of the report is that we aren’t actually tapping into that massive resource in our membership.

Another criticism in the report is that there was no accountability or chain of command.

One of the things was that who was responsible for what wasn’t clear. One recommendation is that there is a clearer chain of demand, just like in any organisation you have a hierarchy…

When asked did the reports criticise Enda Kenny, she said:

There was criticism of everyone, pretty much.

O’Connell said the leadership issue is a matter for the Taoiseach. “It is his call,” she added. 

Kenny himself said the two reports will be published after they have been considered by the Fine Gael executive council.

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