Fine Gael to reverse corporate donations ban to compete with FF

FINE GAEL is to reverse its ban on corporate donations because it says it will be impossible to compete on a level playing pitch with Fianna Fáil.

However, it has called on the Government to replace the need for parties to seek financial support from business by putting State funding structures in place.

This policy change is one of a number of recommendations contained in an internal party review aimed at revitalising the party after its general election disaster.

The party adopted the report's recommendations at a two-day meeting in Westport, Co Mayo, yesterday which it believes will create a more professional and effective party.

The changes include:

A new management structure headed by a political director. This will comprise professional researchers who will provide TDs and advisors with information on policy issues.

Establishing a dedicated Dublin task force, to try to re-invigorate support for the party in the capital

The sale of the party's Mount Street headquarters, in favour of a modern building that is more accessible to the public

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the changes would rejuvenate the party and help propel them back into Government.

"The report recommends some key changes in the organisation and in the structure of the party among them, the kind of things that will transform Fine Gael back into a powerful, professional, political machine. Specifically, the kind of machine that will put us back in Government," he said. Party sources say the new management structure is to improve overall planning which it realises it has to address if it is to catch up with Fianna Fáil.

Deputies acknowledge that Fianna Fáil's quality of research and planning is far ahead of any of the other parties. It was able to use these resources in its slick and effective general election campaign.

The decision to establish a Dublin task force is crucial, say party sources, as it has to do better in Dublin if it is to have a realistic chance of forming an alternative Government.

Separately, Mr Kenny claimed the Government had given in to its demands for a Dáil debate on the Flood Tribunal report.

But he said the Government had not yet agreed to its demand for the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to answer questions on Ray Burke's appointment to Cabinet in 1997.

It is also seeking a full debate on the state of the economy and wants explanations on the "wildly inaccurate" election promises and "gross mismanagement" of the public finances.

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