Fine Gael think-in: Report: ‘Fortress mentality’ in FG HQ ahead of last election

Those in Fine Gael headquarters had a “fortress mentality” and the party’s general election campaign failed across a number of areas, a report has found.

An overhaul of the party’s research and communication strategies and the adoption of a more inclusive approach to get all members involved were among the recommendations put forward by Marion Coy in her review of Fine Gael’s disappointing election campaign.

Speaking to members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party at their annual think-in the former president of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) highlighted a number of failures identified in her report.

Ms Coy, who is chair of the Collins Institute, the think-tank linked to Fine Gael, found there were “failures in vision, empathy, planning, tactical positioning, communication, campaigning and responsiveness” during this year’s campaign.

Fine Gael TDs and senators attending the two-day meeting in Newbridge, Co Kildare, were also briefed by Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell who was among a number of Fine Gael politicians tasked with compiling a separate report on the election campaign based on feedback from grassroots members.

Fine Gael members were last night given briefing notes on both reviews, however, the reports themselves have yet to be published in full.

Among the recommendations made by Ms Coy is the appointment of Fine Gael spokespeople to briefs where they don’t have a minister.

This would mean that the party would appoint spokespeople to both cabinet and junior ministerial briefs that are currently filled by members of the Independent Alliance and Independents.

The briefing document given to members also stated that mobilisation of party membership must be effected through the development of issue-based campaigns and the broadening of the mechanism for party engagement.

It added that a more cohesive, and organised, approach should be taken to the mobilisation of all elected representatives in pursuit of an annually-agreed work programme.

Ms Coy told those attending the think-in that the party must appoint a policy director and that Fine Gael’s research strategy and methodology should be “completely overhauled”.

The second report also highlighted the failure of party headquarters to communicate with the grassroots.

Arriving at the think-in Ms O’Connell admitted that the party failed to engage enough with local party members.

She said: “We probably as a party don’t engage with our grassroots enough and to some extent people get involved in a political party to try and bring their opinions to the table.

“One of the findings in the report is that we are not actually tapping into that massive resource that we have within our membership, the people that we all met going around the country,” Ms O’Connell said.

When asked if the report was critical of Enda Kenny she replied that “there was criticism of everybody, pretty much” in it.

Ms O’Connell said the responsibilities people held in the campaign “were not clear” and so one recommendation would be that there would be a “clearer train of command” in the future.

The pre-Dáil parliamentary party meeting continues today where members of Fine Gael will discuss mental health and the homeless and housing crisis.


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