Fine Gael top brass accused of ‘disconnection’ by local members

Senior Fine Gael figures faced accusations of the party being “disconnected” from local councillors and were forced to defend the ‘supply and confidence’ government deal made with Fianna Fáil.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his ministers yesterday held the first all-party conference since the formation of the government, as well as since the party’s disappointing general election results.

Hundreds of councillors, senators, and TDs, as well as constituency representatives attended the special national conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone, Co Westmeath.

The behind-closed doors national consultative conference was held to discuss the programme for government agreed between Fine Gael and Independents earlier this month, as well as the minority support deal with Fianna Fáil and the general election outcome.

Party sources at the meeting said it was “constructive” and was also trying to bridge the gap with councillors. This was especially so after local representatives were very bitter after the 2014 local election when there was no arrangement made to take on board their complaints and no report done. Following the general election, a report is being compiled by Marion Coy, who heads a party think-tank and is former head of the Galway and Mayo Institute of Technology.

Mr Kenny, Housing Minister Simon Coveney and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald were among those to address yesterday’s meeting. One source explained: “The disconnect between headquarters and ground level was raised, especially the local decision levels and how they ultimately can’t influence which candidates are chosen [for elections]. Some candidates were forced on areas.”

Ministers also said that working with Fianna Fáil and relying on its support to keep the minority government in place “won’t be easy”, added sources.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is expected to announce his new front bench in the Dáil this week. Several new female TDs are expected to be given prominent roles. Mr Martin though is not expected to announce a deputy party leader.


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