Fine Gael held their 78th Ard Fheis last weekend in Citywest, Dublin, in the run up to this year's general election. Taking centre stage were the plans to scrap the Universal Social Charge. An unexpected development came during Enda Kenny's televised address, when he announced Fine Gael's proposed National Napkin Scheme.
If implemented, every household nationwide would be provided a weekly supply of table napkins. "Every day thousands of Irish families use kitchen paper as napkins when eating their dinner," Kenny told the delegates. "If re-elected, we will put out a Bounty on make-shift napkins!" He was seemingly unaware that the brand changed its name several years ago.
The proposal has been met with mixed reactions. While the cost to the exchequer has not been calculated yet, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin slammed the measure. "This is just the sort of reckless public spending we've been accused of doing for years," he said. "Our proposed Disposable Tissue and Towel tax credit is the only responsible way of weaning the squeezed middle off their kitchen roll habit."
Renua Ireland president Eddie Hobbs spoke this morning on his party's own napkin-related policy. "It's well-known that high-earners use more napkins, so we've proposed a graduated scheme." The Renua plan would involve increasing the amount of weekly napkins delivered for every additional €10k gross income. "It's what we call a progressive measure."
There were plenty of other talking points throughout the weekend, including Fianna Fáil's accusation that Fine Gael wanted a "coronation not an election". Simon Harris hit back during an initially crowd-pleasing speech on Saturday morning. He told the audience that Micheál Martin was "more familiar with 'abdication' than 'coronation'." This high point was quickly passed however, as Harris pushed the metaphor too far. "And that Michael McGrath fella," he continued, "he prefers King to Tayto."
This went on for several minutes until Harris eventually produced a stack of paper from under the lectern. "Was disgraced King Edward VIII a member of Fianna Fáil?" he asked the increasingly bored crowd. "Let's find out. This is the King's Speech. Card. 1925. King George V reigns over a quarter of the world's population." Harris proceeded to read the entire screenplay of the 2010 film. Few stayed to the end of his recitation, as both morning tea and lunch were served. Several panels had to be moved to accommodate his unplanned and lengthy hit at Fianna Fáil.
As predicted, the Justice and Law panel didn't make much headway into their programme of debates. Delegates were sidetracked for most of the weekend by their various Making a Murderer theories. An early procedural motion to stop spoilers was proposed by a delegate who claimed "I have it on my Netflix list, but I'm still watching Jessica Jones". The motion was quickly shot down.
By the end of the weekend the panel had only passed two resolutions, both emergency motions. The first was to allow Dean Strang to attend the Ard Fheis just in case he showed up. Strang was in Dublin on Saturday to appear on the Ray D'Arcy Show. The second, passed the following day, condemned D'Arcy for his poor performance while interviewing Strang.
An incident early in the weekend threatened to put a damper on things. An empty shotgun cartridge was found on Friday afternoon in the venue, triggering a brief evacuation. The room was later declared safe. To make sure Young Fine Gael didn't feel left out, a grown-up party official left a Nintendo 64 cartridge for them in their conference room. Reports suggest it was either Mario Kart 64 or Diddy Kong Racing.