Fianna Fáil consults grassroots for campaign suggestions

Fianna Fáil TDs are expected to reach out to local councillors in the coming months as part of wider plans to draw up a list of “campaign” issues the party will raise in the Dáil from autumn.

The move was discussed during a front bench meeting of the opposition party yesterday, which took place as division continued to be apparent within Fine Gael.

It is understood that the Fianna Fáil meeting involved discussion on an “autumn strategy” for the second half of this year concentrating on what issues to raise in the Dáil over the coming months.

The points — which are expected to include publicly-focussed issues such as motor insurance and health matters — are due to be decided at a further meeting next Tuesday. The discussion areas are due to play a role in an increased number of party town meetings in the coming months.

However, while one TD described the points as “campaign” issues, Fianna Fáil front bench members yesterday rejected suggestions the autumn strategy is part of a wider strategy to prepare for an upcoming general election, saying the forward planning move is simply about ensuring grassroots issues are raised in the Dáil.

The Fianna Fáil meeting took place as Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny continues to fight a reduced but ongoing battle with internal dissenters over when he will step down. However, it is understood that during the opposition party’s meeting, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin reminded TDs that the debate over the Taoiseach’s future is solely a matter for Fine Gael.

The Fianna Fáil meeting took place after a detailed briefing given by Mr Kenny and Department of the Taoiseach officials to opposition leaders on Ireland’s planned response to Brexit.

It is understood the Taoiseach confirmed to Mr Martin, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, Labour’s Brendan Howlin, and representatives from the Social Democrats, Green Party, AAA-PBP and Independent groupings that he will set up a new unit with his department to focus on the issue.

He is also believed to have told his rivals during an hour-long discussion that the new unit will receive significant staffing resources and potentially include an official overhead at secretary general level.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has defended the Government’s summer economic statement in front of the Seanad as he admitted the recent 26.3% CSO growth rate figures were “distortions”.

Fine Gael senator Kieran O’Donnell called for the CSO to publish a new and revised report, saying “it is incumbent upon the CSO to now go back and come up with a presentation that basically sieves out the exceptional factors”.

Mr O’Donnell served on the cross-party public accounts committee during the last Dáil term and said he found it “unusual that back in March, the CSO were projecting 7.8% growth for 2015, and suddenly those figures have become 26% three months later”.

Mr O’Donnell said he was “perplexed” that the CSO would publish such figures that represent “an inaccurate reflection of the true position”.


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