Fine Gael scrambles for hustings venues due to short timeframe

Fine Gael has been scrambling to book venues for its leadership hustings due to the short timeframe of the contest.

While the Fine Gael executive council signed off on some of the venues to hold its town-hall debates with members, a meeting was also held to formally approve voting dates, polling stations, and the rules of conduct around the campaign.

While TDs have the largest chunk of votes at 65%, councillors and the 25,000 grassroots members have also been given a vote for the first time. This will make the regional hustings an important element of the leadership campaign for Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar.

Before any votes are cast there will be four regional debates, or hustings, taking place in Dublin, Carlow, Ballinasloe, Cork.

The dates and locations of these events were confirmed last night as:

  • Thursday, May 25: Red Cow Hotel, Dublin.
  • Friday, May 26: Barrow Centre, IT Carlow.
  • Saturday, May 27: Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe, Co Galway.
  • Sunday, May 28: Clayton Hotel Silver Springs, Cork.

Councillors, who have a 10% share, and ordinary members, who have been given a 25% weighting, will vote together at allocated polling stations, with one likely to be set up in each county. The parliamentary party will then vote on June 2, before all ballots are counted later that day.

It is expected that the new leader will be announced that day.

Heading into the meeting last night, Martin Heydon, chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, said the shorter than expected lead-in time to voting had caused some difficulty in booking venues, with many hotels booked out for weddings and other events next weekend: “The time period is a little bit tighter than had been originally scheduled and, despite previous media reports, there weren’t hotels booked for any set date, so we didn’t have any confirmation of dates until the Taoiseach indicated his intention to step down.”

However, it is understood the party had begun making inquiries to certain venues before Enda Kenny formally announced he was stepping down during the parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday evening.

Speaking about how the campaign would be run, Mr Heydon said: “At the core of what we are doing here is to ensure the integrity of the process and that we make sure that all of the electorate — both the Fine Gael members, the length and breadth of the country, the county councillors, and the parliamentary party — have the opportunity to engage and listen and debate the facts and the issues before the vote.”

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