Best-laid political plans can fall foul of think-in


Best-laid political plans can fall foul of think-in

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The think-in is a relatively new phenomenon in the political landscape. If memory serves me correctly, they started around the turn-of-the-century with Fianna Fáil being the first to have them.

These days they all follow a similar format; there’s a media doorstep with the leader, an opening speech – and then the party goes into private session to discuss policy issues, sometimes with a guest speaker who is an expert in some area (in housing or the economy or social policy).

So what’s the point of them? Originally, they were half-social, half-business events – a coming together of the politicians after the summer break.

They were mainly in-house events, but quickly they evolved into mainly media events; so much so that they have become a part of the calendar in September. Each of the parties coordinates their events to ensure there is not too violent a clash with the think-in of another party.

They ensure there is always one memorable policy announcement or statement from the leader that will generate headlines. For a day – unless something else very dramatic is happening in the world – the party can essentially dominate the media agenda.

The ace of think-ins was the Fianna Fáil meeting in West Cork in 2004 when Bertie Ahern invited Fr Sean Healy – of Social Justice Ireland, then CORI – to address the troops.

It came a year after Charlie McCreevy had been ousted from the saddle in the Department of Finance. McCreevy had championed individualism and capitalism during his term.

“When I have it, I spend it,” he once famously remarked.

Ahern had his political antennae up and knew that the mood was changing in relation to McCreevy’s world view. So he came up with the Inchydoney Strategy at the eponymous West Cork resort. Healy’s message was unambiguously that of social justice.

Pictured: Then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen, arriving for the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party meeting in Galway – this one in the Clayton Hotel in 2008.

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