Leo Varadkar speaking at Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise. Photo Denis Byrne.
The future Taoiseach has made a lot of promises on how he hopes completely overhaul Fine Gael
Leo Varadkar pledged to make Fine Gael a fighting force again in his campaign for the leadership of the party he has now won.
The Minister for Social Protection Varadkar and likely Taoiseach published detailed plans to "energise Fine Gael", give power back to its members and restore it as an electoral fighting force.
His Taking Fine Gael Forward plan will give party members a real input into crucial decisions like whether to enter government, and real input into policy formation. Conventions to select candidates will be fair and well organised and we will launch a national recruitment drive to attract new members.
“Fine Gael is a great party. We founded the State, oversaw crucial advances in economic and social policy and were called on to save our country during our recent, darkest crisis. This has given us the confidence and courage to be ambitious. However, nothing is certain in politics. If the right decisions are taken, we can lead this Government and the next. If the wrong decisions are taken, we will be back into survival mode. For parties to survive and prosper they must continuously adapt and modernise.
“I want to democratise the party, engage with members, and organise and mobilise to connect with a wider public. We will listen to their interests, concerns and views and secure their confidence and support.
“Gaining new support must be a key priority for the new Leader of Fine Gael. I believe I am best placed to do that. Fine Gael should be a party that can attract votes in Castleknock and Clondalkin, Dungarvan and Doohoma, not because we try to be all things to all people but because there are people in all areas and all walks of life who share our values.”
Below are a range of his ideas:
I. Democratising the Party
Letting members decide on Government – The formal decision for Fine Gael to enter Government will be made by the party as a whole, as is the case in other parties.
Shaping a Dynamic Political Programme - The traditional but outdated party manifesto will be replaced with a rolling ‘Political Programme’ that details Fine Gael’s position on the key issues of the day.
Annual Árd Fheis - There will be an Árd Fheis every year. We should not be afraid of good debates, opposing views and open votes.
Annual Policy Conference - Every year elected public representatives will meet at an Annual Policy Conference. A delegation from each constituency will also attend.
Stronger links between elected members - The Parliamentary Party Chairman will attend the weekly pre-Cabinet meeting of Fine Gael Ministers.
II. Engage our members
New Groupings and social networks – These could include: FG SME group, FG Young Farmers, FG Inclusion, FG Environment, FG LGBT, FG Education, FG for the Arts etc.
Tapping into talent and experience – Party members will be able to offer their skills and talents to the Party through a new database.
Griffith-Collins Summer School - The first one shall be held in Cork this August to coincide with the Béal na mBláth Collins commemoration. It will be open to members and non-members.
III. Organise and Mobilise
Counties & constituencies with no TD – Each county and constituency will have a specific plan to restore Dáil representation. Local area representatives will be appointed where appropriate, with visits organised by the Taoiseach and Ministers.
Conventions: early, open and fair – We will hold conventions once the Boundary Commission report is published. These will be well organised and open to scrutiny, with a dispute resolution process to avoid rancour or recourse to the courts.
Sub-constituency organisation - The existing organisational structure below constituency level will be reviewed by the
Executive Council and some areas may move to district structures, with others remaining at local level.
Diversity & Inclusion - We need to apply a new approach to encourage new citizens to stand as Fine Gael candidates.
Recruitment Drive – We will hold a national recruitment drive to expand our membership, particularly in cities and towns throughout the country. People who don’t wish to become full members will be able to register as supporters.
Young Fine Gael – we need to ensure that YFG’s ideas are heard and listened to at Party Leadership level and that of Government.
Deepen our engagement with the European People’s Party – Involvement with the EPP will be extended to the wider party membership.
Develop greater links across the border – Cross-border Ministerial links should be replicated across the party membership.
The Cosgrave Society – Former Oireachtas Members have enormous expertise and experience. This new society will allow them to mentor up-and-coming talent and assist Ministers and constituencies.
Intern Programme – This will offer placements in Headquarters and constituency offices.
Focus on the next Local & European Elections within the party - It's crucial that we prepare for the 2019 Local and European elections with clear targets for each local authority. Success locally breeds success nationally.
General Secretary – In line with modern practice, new appointments as General Secretary, when the position next falls to be filled, will serve a maximum term of 5 or 7 years.
Education and Information Department – This will be based in Fine Gael HQ offering courses to party members, candidates and public representatives on legislative affairs, economics, legislative affairs and media.
Reclaiming our History – We will bring back ‘United Ireland Party’ as a tag line for our party, and mark special events like the foundation of the State, Cumann na nGaedheal, and the declaration of a Republic. In the present day, this slogan will refer to our aspirations for the whole island: north/south, rural/urban and young/old.