John Gormley: island retreat

THE Green Party is considering a new departure in Irish politics by holding the party's autumn 'think-in' on the Aran Islands.

"The islands are among a number of venues being considered for the event," said a Green Party spokesman. "There was some talk about Inis Oírr or Inis Meáin but now Inis Mór is being looked at. A number of issues such as accommodation are being considered," he said.

The gathering is scheduled to begin on 10 September.

Party 'think-ins' have become a staple in the political calendar in recent years, with politicians from the various parties coming together in a hotel for a few days each autumn to discuss strategy ahead of the new Dáil term.

Started by Fianna Fáil in 1996, the most famous think-in took place when the party went to the Inchydoney resort in Cork in 2004 after its disastrous mid-term local election performance.

After an address by Fr Seán Healy, then taoiseach Bertie Ahern declared himself a socialist, and senior party figures were photographed strolling on the beach.

This year, Fianna Fáil will hold its event in the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone in mid-September, with the date yet to be finalised. Fine Gael will also hold a 'think-in' but the party is still planning a date and venue for its event.

Labour's get-together will be held in the Faithlegg House Hotel in Waterford on 9 and 10 September.

The reason for the think-ins, the parties say, is to offer all the politicians from a party the opportunity to meet at a location outside Dublin where they can focus their minds on policy and the party leadership can "rally the troops" before the new Dáil term.