Tánaiste says FG will run as ‘independent party’ in next election as stance by Donohoe faces backlash
14th December 2021
Fine Gael will campaign in the next general election as an “independent party”, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar spokesperson has said.
The comment comes after Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Green Party Coalition should go into the next election seeking a second term in office.
Mr Donohoe said there is “absolutely every prospect” of the three-party Government making a “compelling case” to voters and returning to power.
He said he expected the three parties to enter the campaign separately but insisted the serving Government will show voters the “political centre can work”.
The minister’s comments sparked debate and backlash in his own party and Fianna Fáil with TDs in both insisting they do not want to approach the next election as a combined force with their long-running political rivals.
In a statement, the Tánaiste’s spokesperson said the next general election is three years away but when it comes, “Fine Gael will contest it as an independent party”.
“If we receive a sufficient mandate, we will seek to lead a coalition of the centre. The politics of the progressive centre has served Ireland well and will secure our future,” he added.
Privately, senior Fine Gael figures were critical of Mr Donohoe’s intervention.
“Who died and made Paschal the leader?” one TD said. Another said the proposal was “absolute nonsense”.
Meanwhile, senior figures in Fianna Fáil moved to distance themselves from Mr Donohoe’s comments.
Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers said Fianna Fáil members will not support Mr Donohoe’s proposal that the grand Coalition would ask voters to put them back in power in 2024.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Chambers said: “Fianna Fáil will be running in the next election on our own manifesto, with our own policies, with our own focus and with our own identity.”
Mr Chambers said Mr Donohoe is “entitled to his view”, but added: “I’m giving my view and we’ll be fighting any future general election on our own terms having delivered in Government.”
Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said he does not accept Mr Donohoe’s “simple reframing of the next election as being a binary choice”.
“A few months ago we were told that the future of politics would be a two-horse race between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. That is clearly not true,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
“The Irish people want to be governed by a centre ground national party. That is why it is so important for Fianna Fáil at the next election to put forward a unique and fresh vision for Ireland’s future,” the Dublin Bay South TD added.
Laois/Offaly TD Barry Cowen said Fine Gael will have been in power for 14 years when the next election is called and this will “provide its own challenges”.
“Fianna Fáil will want and have to appear fresh, vibrant and keen to fight to lead next government. After having been out of Government for 10 years, we’ll have shown a capacity to govern, to coalesce and willingness to adapt in the country’s interest,” he said.
“We will be prepared to accept the people’s verdict when votes are cast and talk to all parties with a mandate in an effort to provided government reflective of their votes.”
Mr Cowen said if the Government “performs effectively” he would “expect the parties within it would then be up for consideration by the electorate in selecting the next government”.
“If not, they won’t,” Mr Cowen added.
Writing on Twitter, Dublin North West TD Paul McAuliffe said he is committed to the Programme for Government because it is a shift in policy after 10 years of Fine Gael in power.
“The only thing ‘we’ should be doing is focusing on delivering it. FF are just 17 months in Government after 10 years being out. Let’s get this job done first,” he said.