Fine Gael plans for six-week Eighth campaign

Fine Gael is preparing to run a four- to six-week referendum campaign targeting undecided voters.

Party sources told the Irish Examiner that its campaign is unlikely to begin until after Easter as, separately, a number of pro-life TDs downplayed suggestions they will join any cross-party pro-life platform.

It is understood while the referendum bill has now passed through the Dáil and will be voted on in the Seanad next week, Fine Gael is reluctant to put in place any formal campaign structure until all parts of the bill are passed.

This is because until then, the exact date of the referendum will not be known, and because the party’s national executive council is unlikely to meet to finalise who it wants to lead the campaign as national director of elections until that point.

Although Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed he will campaign in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment, as have a number of other ministers, the role of director of elections has yet to be decided.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, and others have been mooted as options.

Fine Gael sources say that when this decision is made, the party will prepare for a four- to six-week campaign in the final stages of the referendum campaign, during which it intends to target undecided voters.

Pro-life TDs in Fianna Fáil and other parties have downplayed reports they may join an informal cross-party platform of similarly minded supporters of the Eighth Amendment.

Despite reports yesterday suggesting such a move is being considered and an admission that individuals from different parties have spoken about how they will vote, several Fianna Fáil TDs insist they have not heard of the cross-party platform and are not in favour of it.

Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow-Kilkenny Bobby Aylward told the Irish Examiner he does not know anything about such a platform and that “no one has approached me about that, to be honest”.

He said he is “not really in favour of it” and that “if anyone approaches me about some kind of cartel or anything like that, I don’t want to be in it”.

Meanwhile, Cork East TD Kevin O’Keeffe said while he has discussed the referendum on a regular basis with Independent TD Mattie McGrath, he does not know of any plans to form a cross-party pro-life platform.

Pro-choice Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell has backed Independent Alliance TD and Junior Minister John Halligan’s claims that those who voted against the referendum bill are “an affront to democracy”.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, Ms O’Connell said “I would pretty much align myself to where he stands on it” and that, “for me, John Halligan is definitely right”.

Ms O’Connell noted that “there is nothing complex about just letting democracy happen”, saying she believes it is wrong that 32 TDs — including 21 Fianna Fáil TDs — voted against the referendum bill allowing a referendum itself.

On the same programme, Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien said while he has “reservations” about the referendum and will vote to retain the Eighth Amendment, he supports the referendum bill “because people have a right to have their say”.

“We should never fear the public having a vote and respecting the public having a vote,” said Mr O’Brien.


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