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Fine Gael ‘seen as the porridge on the cereal shelf’ to voters

The party has urged voters to stick with it as opinion polls show a decline in support after nine years in Government

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Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe (Brian Lawless/PA)

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe (Brian Lawless/PA)

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fine Gael has said the party is seen by voters as “the porridge on the cereal shelf” as it seeks to turn around its fortunes in the final week of the General Election campaign.

Director of elections Paschal Donohoe said the party will be appealing to voters not to vote for change “for change’s sake”.

Sinn Fein has surged into first place in the Irish General Election race, an opinion poll of voters suggested.

The party could earn the support of a quarter of all those likely to cast their ballots, according to an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI survey.

Fine Gael, the party which has led Ireland’s coalition governments for almost decade, was predicted to finish third with the backing of a fifth of the electorate, the Irish Times poll said.

Mr Donohoe said Fine Gael will fight back this week and will spend the final week of the campaign emphasising that “not all change can be risk-free and not all change can be positive”.

“This week we are going to try and drag the election back to where we believe it should be, a discussion about who has the realistic and deliverable policies to deliver a change in approach and a new direction for our country,” he said.

“Our hope is debate will move beyond the relentless negativity of Fianna Fail’s Project Fear and the fantasy policies of Sinn Fein.”

Richard Bruton said Fine Gael is thought of by voters “as the porridge on the cereal shelf” as it seeks to do serious work in Government.

Mr Donohoe said while he understands the public appetite for change, he urged them to stick with Fine Gael.

“What we are going to be doing as we head into the final week of the campaign is emphasising in our manifesto and in the plans that we have published… that we have recognised the progress that has been made in our country due to the sacrifices of the Irish people.

“We will be making the claim to the Irish people that change is happening and we are ambitious for more change to happen.

“We will be building on what we have already done, acknowledging what needs to be done, and we will be unapologetic in challenging other parties that are putting forward mantras of change.

“In offering these mantras of change, Fianna Fail are putting forward their worst hits of their recent past, and what Sinn Fein are offering is the kind of ideas that will do such harm to workers’ income, to wages and to their jobs.”

Launching a plan for climate action, Fine Gael said two billion euro of the carbon tax fund would be ring-fenced for retrofitting homes and insulation.

It also committed an additional 244 million euro of carbon tax revenue towards the transition away from peat burning in the midlands.

Mr Bruton said: “This will not only reduce the country’s emissions by one third by 2030 but also upgrade 500,000 homes.

“Fine Gael’s new plan will replace the current ad-hoc retrofitting model and instead group homes together, develop easy pay-back models and put smart finance in place.

“Our plan will have a very regional spread, with the initial focus obviously being on the midlands. This will mean that we will be able to build up an expertise in this in the midlands, providing employment opportunities there for the years ahead.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald will join the Prime Time leaders’ debate on Tuesday night on RTE One.

Until the decision on Monday afternoon, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail head Micheal Martin were the only two party leaders invited to debate.

PA