Fine Gael eyes election ahead of ard fheis

Fine Gael is gearing up for a general election by targeting middle-income earners and pensioners at its ard fheis this weekend.

Establishing a digital commission with defined powers, introducing a third tax band, and providing more support measures for parents are among the motions to be discussed.

Many of the motions put forward highlight the achievements made by the party in Government, including the work done to ensure no hard border after Brexit and its involvement in the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

While talks with Fianna Fáil on an extension of the confidence and supply agreement until 2020 are continuing, it is clear Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s party is readying for the prospect of facing the electorate.

Delegates at the annual gathering on Friday and Saturday will vote on a motion to hold a number of referenda, including one to remove divorce from the Constitution so that the law can be determined by the Oireachtas.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan has previously suggested this referendum could take place at the same time as the European and local elections next year.

A number of motions will focus on the taxation system, especially for middle-income earners, with one calling on Fine Gael in Government to introduce a middle band for income tax, while another suggests the party should outline a roadmap on reducing the personal taxation burden.

Delegates will also focus on working families with a motion to give parents more flexibility, choice, and practical support when it comes to balancing work and home demands, including a full, integrated review of both taxation and labour market activation policies.

Irish language and Gaeltacht issues will not be addressed this weekend. Just one of the motions to be put forward is written in Irish — it refers to allowing everyone living in Ireland, including on the islands, vote on the same day in elections.

Residents of 12 islands currently vote before the main polling day in elections.

Fine Gael will also look at ways to facilitate older people to work past the retirement age if they so wish, while another motion states the ard fheis is “extremely concerned that the vast majority of workers are not making provision for their pensions”.

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