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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Ministers are urged to change Fine Gael image

Minister Regina Doherty. Photo: Frank McGrath/Irish Independent
Minister Regina Doherty. Photo: Frank McGrath/Irish Independent

Fine Gael ministers have been urged to change the public perception that the party is only for the wealthy and the elite before the approaching general election.

Ministers were told they need to highlight what the party has done for all sectors of society, including the most vulnerable, as the debate over the election date rumbled on into the weekend.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael backbench TDs said they were no clearer on when the election would be held after attending a parliamentary meeting in Dublin hosted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

It has also emerged Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is still prepared to agree to dissolve the Dail in April after his meeting with Mr Varadkar.

Earners

A senior Fianna Fail source said Mr Martin's offer to extend the Dail until Easter still stands and it was now up to Mr Varadkar to ensure he has the numbers to stay in Government.

Before their parliamentary party meeting, Fine Gael ministers met to discuss general election campaign strategy at the Irish Georgian Society.

Ministers were told they need to show voters that the party is not just for middle and high income earners but also for those who are less well-off.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty gave a presentation detailing how much funding Fine Gael had invested in welfare payments since taking office nine years ago.

"There was big emphasis on messaging and telling voters what we have done for those who are less well-off in society," a minister said.

Another added: "There was talk of being a party 'for the many, not the few'."

At a press conference, the Taoiseach said he believes he has the numbers to defeat a motion of 'no confidence' in Health Minister Simon Harris set to be tabled. He also said the Dail would return next week.

In a separate development, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald announced that the party has agreed to back a deal to restore powersharing at Stormont - a move that confirms the return of devolved government in Northern Ireland after a three-year absence.

The Dublin TD said she believes that "powersharing can work".

"It requires everyone to step up. Sinn Fein's commitment is to do all in our power to make this happen," she added.

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