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Fine Gael

Harris' first Ard Fheis as leader to hear calls for more 'starter homes' and lethal arms for Ukraine

Notably, the party’s National Executive has put down a motion to change the rules around how a leader is elected.

THE FINE GAEL Ard Fheis in Galway over the weekend will hear calls for the government to provide lethal military aid to Ukraine and for the Occupied Territories Bill to be enacted. 

The event will also see the new party leader and soon-to-be Taoiseach Simon Harris give a televised speech on Saturday evening, whereby he will set out his priorities for the final year of this government. 

One motion that will be debated at this year’s Ard Fheis, put down by the party’s National Executive, is to change the rules around how Fine Gael elects a new leader.

Under the current rules, the parliamentary party wields the most power, and account for 65% of the vote in the Electoral College system. Councillors account for 10%, and party members the remaining 25%.  

At the party’s national conference last year, there was disquiet among many members who said the grassroots were not getting a big enough say in who should lead Fine Gael.

The motion in the programme that members will be asked to vote on on Saturday calls for the rule to change, so voting weight attached to each group shall be as follows:

  • Parliamentary Party 55%
  • Party Membership 30%
  • Public Representatives 15% 

The rule change, if approved, will only impact on the next leader of Fine Gael, whoever that may be. 

While the Taoiseach travels to Galway today, the official programme begins tomorrow, with Minister Simon Coveney and Minister Paschal Donohoe giving an opening address to party members. 

It comes after Coveney announced this week that he will be stepping down from Cabinet when the Dáil resumes next week.

While he said he intended to run for re-election last week, the Cork TD said this week that he was mulling over the matter and failed to commit that he will be running again.

Donohoe told reporters yesterday that he intends to seek re-election. 

Leo Varadkar attending

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is still in the top job until Monday, will be attending the Ard Fheis this weekend, though he is not due to the address the crowd. 

Throughout the day, members will vote on motions tabled, such as the one put down by Dublin Rathdown Young Fine Gael which calls for Ireland to supply lethal arms to Ukraine. 

The Carrigaline Branch is calling for the Occupied Territories Bill, which has stalled in the Dáil and was left out of the programme for government at the behest of Coveney, to be enacted. 

The motion also calls for the State of Palestine to be recognised. 

Others include calls from a branch in Dublin Rathdown to increase the entry point to the higher tax rate to at least €50,000 within the next two years.

The Cork South West Constituency Executive has a motion calling for the VAT rate to be reduced again to 9% for food-based hospitality businesses, while the Dublin Mid West constituency branch is calling for an increase to the rate of stamp duty on bulk purchases of residential property.

Castletroy/Monaleen Branch in Limerick City is calling on the government to further prioritise the building of “starter homes” for purchase at affordable prices, stating they should be funded under the Local Authority Affordable Purchase Scheme, and setting out that housing targets under this scheme should be set for all 31 local authorities. 

There will be a debate on “safer streets across Ireland”, with a motion calling for an increased Garda presence and another seeking the reopening of more Garda stations.