Fine Gael aims to become first party in Government to make gains since 1990s

-   Fine Gael Press Office

Fine Gael is this weekend aiming to become the first Government party in two decades to make gains at a mid-term election.

Speaking today (Wednesday, May 22), Fine Gael Ministers said they want to win more local authority seats, win the popular vote, hold their four European seats and try to win a fifth and ensure the referendum to shorten the period a couple must be separated before divorcing is passed along with plebiscites for directly elected mayors in three Munster cities.

Fine Gael is running seven candidates in Europe – Sean Kelly MEP, Deirdre Clune MEP and Minister Andrew Doyle in the South; Mairead McGuinness MEP and Maria Walsh in the Midlands North-West and Deputy Frances Fitzgerald and Mark Durkan in Dublin.

Minister Regina Doherty who is Fine Gael European Director of Elections said, “the good thing about these European elections is that, in the shadow of Brexit, never before has the importance of the EU been clearer to Irish people.”

“The friends who have supported us and protected our interests- Tusk, Barnier, Juncker – have all been members of the EPP. These are the type of people we need Europe to return to its Parliament rather than the false-populists and Faragists who would seek to undermine it.

“If people want a strong and supportive EU Parliament and bolster the EPP, they should return as many Fine Gael representatives as possible,” Minister Doherty said.

Minister John Paul Phelan is Director for Local Elections, where Fine Gael is running 406 candidates, and is overseeing the campaign for the plebiscites for the directly elected mayors in Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

“Fine Gael is aiming to become the first Government party in 20 years to add seats at a mid-term election.

“We have a team of very strong new candidates along with our 200 outgoing councillors in every local electoral area and ward in the country.

“We are determined to increase the number of female voices at all levels of government – local, national and European. Fine Gael is the first Party to run more than 100 female candidates in the local elections; 118 of our candidates are women,” Minister Phelan said.

“The plebiscites for directly elected mayors in Cork, Limerick and Galway, are all about encouraging balanced regional development and ensuring these great cities do not get left behind Dublin. We want these cities to grow by 50% between now and 2040, at twice the rate of Dublin ensuring genuine balance across the country.

“Giving the public an opportunity to directly elect their mayor is the most fundamental reform ever proposed since local governments were founded in 1899.

“This is a revolutionary change. Never before have the public been asked if they want a reform like this. We’ve spent the past 30 years consistently stripping power from our local councils. This proposal would make them answerable to the people. We want to turn the system completely on its head for the better of all.

“These proposals are all about addressing the massive democratic deficit at the top of local government. Voting yes will ensure your mayor has increased powers and more clout when it comes to getting things done for your city.

“120 years is a long time to wait for change. I urge the people of Waterford, Limerick and Cork to vote yes for a directly elected mayor on Friday,” Minister Phelan said.

Fine Gael Director of Elections for the Divorce Referendum, Minister Josepha Madigan said she is appealing to people to vote yes to this referendum question on compassionate grounds.

“Voting yes will remove the constitutional requirement that couples whose marriages have broken down completely be separated for four years out of the last five before beginning divorce proceedings. Instead, the Oireachtas will introduce a law reducing that required separation period to two years out of the last three.

“Fine Gael is calling for a yes vote because we want to show empathy and compassion to families going through a difficult time. Shortening the necessary separation period will reduce the emotional and financial distress experienced by people seeking to divorce. This distress is caused by the legal limbo in which couples find themselves during the four-year separation period, which is simply too long.

“This is a reasonable and moderate proposal. This Friday you have a chance to make a real difference to the lives people across the country. A yes vote would help ensure they are shown compassion in a time of difficulty,” Minister Madigan said.

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