Fine Gael in need of radical reform to avoid another election defeat

Fine Gael in need of radical reform to avoid another election defeat

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been called on to oversee a radical reform of Fine Gael if it is to avoid another election defeat, two internal reports have said.

The two reports seen by the Irish Examiner into the party's "dour election" were commissioned and chief among the complaints from party members was a distinct lack of cohesion.

One of the reports compiled by Marion Coy, ex-head of GMIT, warned against allowing any complacency in the wake of the election, despite Fine Gael returning to power.

"The protracted discussions on government formation that followed a dour campaign may lead some to hope for a period of “peace and quiet”.

"The sentiment is understandable but entirely misguided," she wrote.

Ms Coy's made nine recommendations in her report.

They are:

1. Fine Gael should define its future as a campaigning party, anchored in local communities and tackling clearly identified national issues.

2. Fine Gael should build a strong network of connections at all levels in Irish society and become much more open to external influences. This change also requires substantial external input into the structural elements of the party.

3. A structural reorganisation is required in order to create effective cohesion across all elements of the party. To achieve this reform a new Steering Group should be established and a Director of Policy appointed.

4. Fine Gael’s administrative structure needs realignment with the proposed orientation and development of the party.

5. Fine Gael’s Research Strategy and methodology should be completely overhauled.

6. Fine Gael’s communication strategies need to become more open and more diverse.

7. Mobilisation of party membership must be effected through the development of issue-based campaigns and the broadening of mechanisms for party engagement.

8. A more cohesive, and organised approach should be taken to the mobilisation of all elected representatives in pursuit of an annually agreed work programme.

9. Future electoral strategy and planning must be conducted in a more inclusive manner and take into account the failures in vision, empathy, planning, tactical positioning, communication, campaigning and responsiveness identified in the 2016 campaign.

In a second report compiled by a group of TDs - Alan Farrell, Kate O’Connell, Maria Bailey, Peter Burke, Patrick O’Donovan and Senator Maura Hopkins - there are calls for a greater role for TDs to back up ministers.

Fine Gael should “avoid negative campaigning” and focus on its own strong points rather than concentrating on the weaknesses of other political parties, the report states.

It also calls for a more open approach to dealing with the media.

And it also recommended that speakers appearing on behalf of the party should be “well enough briefed so they can be “more relaxed and appear less stage managed.”

A Pool of Knowledge network should be established so that members and ex-members to contribute pertinent information and serve as a resource to the party.

The document also says all meetings by the Taoiseach and ministers should be well-publicised in advance.

At press conferences, debates, and formal interviews, obvious stage-management needs to be decreased. Speakers should not appear stiff and uncomfortable when on stage; they should be prepared and briefed with necessary information, the report says.

To aid with engagement, Fine Gael should hold more informal press briefings, such as the one given by An Taoiseach to members of the press after the election, which was considered an effective engagement strategy, the thirteen page document adds.

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