Fine Gael is in full crisis mode as it is set to lose more than 15 seats, with several senior ministers in jeopardy.
Senior party figures have privately conceded to thethe election will “not go our way” and the party’s time in government is coming to an end.
“We cannot win. The tide of change is too strong. We just need to try and keep as many seats as we can,” said one minister.
The party, under Leo Varadkar, is on course for an election hammering, even though the Taoiseach urged the media not to “write the obituary just yet” about Fine Gael.
Predictions, both external and internal, emerged yesterday suggesting that the party could return with as few as 32 seats.
Such a result would see several Cabinet ministers in danger of losing their Dáil seats.
- Among those of most concern include:
- Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty
- Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy
- Chief Whip Sean Kyne
- Super Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe
- Junior health minister Catherine Byrne
In a sign of how nervous the party is, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe chose to appear on Today FM’swith Matt Cooper from his constituency rather than in studio, which was seen as significant.
“The campaign has been pretty flat and our top guns have not fired,” said one minister.
I should be safe but I am struggling. I don’t think it is bad as the national polls are saying, but it is bad.
Internally, recrimination is already emerging about the Fine Gael campaign’s decision to so heavily focus on Brexit when the public was, at best, apathetic on the issue.
“The campaign has been a fucking disaster,” said one senior party figure. “The D4 boys ran it again and it hasn’t worked. Blame nine years all you like, we made things difficult for ourselves.”
Mr Varadkar, on the campaign trail in Carlow, warned voters not to back populist promises and “amadáin economics”.
The election will be “one of the most important for generations”, he said.
Mr Varadkar played down reports his ministers and TDs are were risk of losing seats and said he would be fighting for votes right up until polls close on Saturday night.
“It is going to be a very tight election,” he said. “I’m sure of that, with the three major parties competing for first, second, and third place.
“In many ways, it makes it one of the most important elections in generations, a decision for people as to whether we continue to go forward or whether we go back with Fianna Fáil.
There’s definitely an appetite for change. But we have to ask ourselves what type of change do we want?
“And that’s what makes this election so crucial, in my view. We’ve seen Brexit in Britain and the vote for Donald Trump in America and the rise of populism and extremism in many European countries.”
He added that he felt more worried about the country now more than “anytime since the crash.”
He said Sinn Féin was offering voters the “biggest con job” since the Fianna Fáil 1977 manifesto with promised tax cuts but extra charges for businesses.
“We all know that doesn’t work. It didn’t work in East Germany, it didn’t work in Venezuela,” said Mr Varadkar.
“All it does is drive business and jobs into the ground, as the economy and other revenue isn’t there to pay for all the crazy promises that were made in the first place.”
And that was “amadáin economics”, he insisted.