Young FG ministers are out front and centre in this campaign, says Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney, the agriculture minister, has dismissed the concerns of a former Fine Gael strategist that the party is “complacent” and is lacking young ministers.

Ahead of a fresh poll yesterday leaving Fine Gael with a further loss of support and down to 26%, Mr Coveney said he disagreed with comments from lobbyist Frank Flannery that “dynamic young politicians” were missing from the campaign.

Mr Flannery also said yesterday he thought Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil might have to go into government together in “the national interest” — despite the leaders of the two parties denying they would do this.

Speaking to Newstalk’s Jonathan Healy, Mr Flannery questioned where the “young leaders” of Fine Gael are in the election campaign, as he criticised the party for being “complacent” in trying to get its message across to voters.

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He questioned why young Fine Gael ministers such as Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney were not playing a “dominant role” in the campaign.

“You look at the leaders lined up in front of you and that’s not what you see,” said Mr Flannery. “You see the ghosts of old battles and old wars being fought from times long ago. The leaders have been around an enormous length of time, all of them. There’s no sign of young Ireland standing up there and I think there’s a lack and it’s part of the disconnect between the official political position.

Frank Flannery
Frank Flannery

“There are lots of dynamic young politicians in Dáil Éireann but none of them are represented in the leadership we’re being presented in this election.”

He said the Government’s approach to the general election had been “processey”.

“There is an assumption that the country knows that a recovery of a dramatic nature has happened,” he said, adding that this was a “complacent” attitude to have. “There is an assumption that the generality of the population understand what this recovery is about and that it’s real. For an awful lot of the public, that recovery is only a word that they hear.”

He said there was also “a sense of complacency” in the party about communicating with voters, without realising the recovery “doesn’t mean much to a huge number of Irish people”, particularly in rural areas.

Mr Flannery said that the final part of the campaign needed to have an effort to explain what the recovery was and not exaggerate it.

“I don’t think Fine Gael has made the progress that people in Fine Gael hoped would be made,” he said.

On the possibility of a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition, Mr Flannery said: “I would personally think that that is an option. I know Enda Kenny has ruled it out, he said last night for the tenth time. The national needs have to come first and everybody has to revisit their perceptions when the counting is done. National interests must come first before all party considerations.”

Mr Coveney, speaking to the Irish Examiner, defended his party and also said that young ministers were out front and centre fighting in the campaign. He said he had taken part in many radio and TV debates.

“We have a very young team, including Simon Harris, Leo [Varadkar], and Paschal [Donohoe].”

The Cork South Central TD said he disagreed with Mr Flannery’s assessment, adding: “Enda Kenny is a very experienced politician. He has led Ireland with a very steady hand and has installed energy into this Government.

“It is true he has been around a long time, but he is experienced.”

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