'The public has been lost': Fine Gael TDs warn Government

'The public has been lost': Fine Gael TDs warn Government

"Obviously nobody condones violence against gardaí, but the people organising these protests are tapping into real anger," said a Fine Gael  source. Picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

A number of Fine Gael members have voiced their dissatisfaction with the level of communication between the Government and the public in recent weeks, with TDs warning that "the public has been lost".

TDs and senators expressed their anger at last Wednesday's parliamentary party meeting with a number of sources now cautioning that if public health measures are not better communicated, compliance levels will slip further. Sources today pointed to Saturday's protest in Dublin as an example of public patience wearing thin.

'Protestors tap into real anger'

"Obviously nobody condones violence against gardaí, but the people organising these protests are tapping into real anger," said a party source.

One source said that, while much of the anger expressed at last week's meeting was directed at Fianna Fáil colleagues such as Taoiseach Micheál Martin and health minister Stephen Donnelly, the overall message has been one of dissatisfaction with how the entire Government has performed in recent weeks. 

Some in the party raised their dissatisfaction at Mr Donnelly's remarks on RTÉ television last Monday night when he told Claire Byrne that talks with education unions had not finished, in direct contravention of what junior education minister Josepha Madigan had said earlier in the day. Sources said there was a sense that Ms Madigan "had been thrown under the bus".

Call for coalition cohesion 

However, sources say that there needs to be more cohesion amongst the government parties.  

"We are in a coalition, whether we like it or not," said one source.

We cannot be competing for headlines or to be the one putting the message out there, we have to be sending out a clear, unified message. Because there's more at stake here than a political game. If we lose the public's faith in the health measures, then it's game over.

Another source said that people were "deeply frustrated" at the perception that messaging from the Government had been mixed.

"The communication from the Government in the last few weeks has been shocking, there's no point pretending that it hasn't. You have a minister on every show on RTÉ, often saying different things and winding the public up. 

The vast majority of the public has done what's been asked of them — they can do no more and the communications is driving them mad.

At last Wednesday's meeting, Senator Regina Doherty is understood to have suggested the return of the much-maligned Strategic Communications Unit of which Fianna Fáil was deeply critical. Sources said that there is "some support" for the idea which they feel would "give one clearinghouse" to Government communications.

Party TDs and senators are also understood to have told the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that the 5km travel restriction "has to go". Rural TDs have argued that the restriction unfairly punishes those in rural areas, while urban members have outlined how the travel limit is leading to crowded public spaces.

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