Fine Gael looks for skeletons in ‘past lives’ of candidates


Fine Gael general election candidates have been asked to sign a party pledge confirming there is nothing in their “past life” they have not revealed which could bring the party into disrepute.

At a parliamentary party meeting last week, candidates signed an amended pledge confirming they had revealed any matter, including views they may have held, which could be a breach of Fine Gael’s ethos and principles.

It follows a number of controversies involving previous candidates, including Maria Bailey and Verona Murphy.

The candidates were asked to confirm they had no pending prosecutions or prior convictions other than minor road traffic offences which resulted in fines of less than €500.

They pledged they had revealed any Revenue Commissioner, Work Place Relations, Labour Court or Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement judgments made against them. Any civil litigation taken against them or their companies was also to be revealed to the party general secretary.

In the aftermath of the Maria Bailey controversy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would be instructing all election candidates to reveal any involvement in legal proceedings.

He said he would also introduce a new party pledge which all candidates would be required to sign.

The pledge was updated this month and given to candidates last week when they met in Dublin to discuss the forthcoming general election.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach was still refusing to reveal the election date which he is expected to name in the coming days.

Party colleagues are expecting him to announce it before Thursday to allow him the option of calling the election between February 7 and 14.

Mr Varadkar is due to discuss the election with Cabinet ministers this morning before meeting with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and other party leaders.

However, last night ministers were suggesting the Taoiseach may not tell them the election date but rather inform them of how he plans to announce it.

Mr Martin launched a scathing attack on the Taoiseach and Fine Gael yesterday over their record on housing and health while in Government.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One, he said Fine Gael had «not prioritised health» while in Government for the past nine years and said the party was putting forward budgets that «don’t reflect reality».

He also said the housing crisis was a «desperate indictment» on Fine Gael’s ability to «get things done» and said some in the party turned their noses up at the idea of social housing.

Mr Martin also claimed the Taoiseach told him during their talks on the election date that he was not sure he could rely on Ms Bailey’s support if a no-confidence motion was tabled against Health Minister Simon Harris.

On Twitter, Mr Harris hit back at the Fianna Fáil leader, asking: «Who is this new politician/agent of change», before adding: «Oh he’s not new.

«He was in the cabinet that left the country bust. He was the minister for foreign affairs who lost the EU referendum. He was the minister for health who set up the HSE.»

Mr Martin’s colleagues in turn targeted the Health Minister online with Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne saying: «Simon, please get off Twitter and get back to work.

«There are hundreds of people waiting on trolleys, kids being denied chemo (chemotherapy) and operations not being done.»

Debates

Mr Varadkar was in Northern Ireland meeting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the newly restored power-sharing executive when the political fighting broke out.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday Mr Martin has signed up to a televised head-to-head election debate with the Taoiseach on Virgin Media.

However, Mr Varadkar has yet to confirm he will take on the Fianna Fáil leader in the debate being proposed by the station.

The Taoiseach’s spokesperson said Mr Varadkar was looking forward to debating Mr Martin, but would consider all debates based on their merit.

RTÉ has yet to decide if it will hold a head-to-head debate featuring the leaders of the two main parties.

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