'I will not do a deal with Michael Lowry or any other independent,' insists Enda Kenny
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has finally said he will not do a deal with Independent TD Michael Lowry - and insisted he won't use Independent TDs to help establish the next Government.
Mr Kenny said he was committed to the Fine Gael and Labour coalition “after five years of difficult decisions” together.
“I will not have any other dealings with Michael Lowry, or any other independent,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
He also said that any deal his party does with other parties or groups would be published.
The Tanaiste Joan Burton last week made it clear "that Michael Lowry would not be an acceptable person in relation to any government that the Labour Party would be part of."
In her strongest comments since the controversy arose over Mr Lowry's potential to be a kingmaker after the election, the Labour Party leader indicated she would rather her party stayed out of government than be propped up by the Tipperary TD.
However, until this morning, the Taoiseach had refused to give a definitive answer on whether he could do a deal with Mr Lowry.
The Fine Gael leader had said he was not "contemplating" working with any Independent TDs - but then also refused to rule them out.
Also last week, a High Court judge said Mr Lowry engaged in "a litany of falsification and deception" - including the falsification of a solicitor's files - in his failure to co-operate with the Moriarty Tribunal.
Mr Kenny has now ruled out a deal with Mr Lowry - adding that he wouldn't deal with any other independents despite widespread prediction that the current coalition will fall well-short of a majority.
“My priority is the return of the Fine Gael/Labour government… why wouldn’t I say that? We’ve had a journey of five years of very difficult decisions and the country is making real progress,” the Taoiseach said.
Opinion polls indicate that the combined vote for the current Coalition will be well below the level needed to be sure of securing a second term following February 26th’s general election.
The coalition could be up to 12 TDs short of securing a majority in the Dáil.
Pressed on the matter by host Gavin Jennings, Mr Kenny conceded that if the need did arise, any deal with Independents would be published fully.
“In that eventually, and I don’t foresee that eventually, any deal done between Fine Gael and Labour, or Fine Gael and anyone else, will of course be published.
“This is about people, their lives, and their country,” he added.
Mr Kenny also said that he will serve a full-term as Taoiseach if he is re-elected to the role, and would retire as leader of the country at the end of the term of the next Government.
Asked about the possibility of a referendum on abortion, the Fine Gael leader said he would allow his party’s TDs a free vote on the matter during any future Dáil debate.
Mr Kenny went on to defend Fine Gael's record on health despite admitting the party had failed to deliver on its election promise of universal health insurance.
He said much had already been done, such as dismantling the HSE, developing primary health care centres and community health services and investing in emergency departments.
"We haven’t completed all we set out to do in health. We have a lot more to do..."
Mr Kenny said it would be a "priority" to extend free GP care for all under 18 years should he be re-elected.
On the economy, he also admitted that the recovery had not been felt the same as in every part of Ireland but that the “country was in a much better shape” than when he first took office in 2011.
“You should recall what I inherited here,” the Taoiseach said.
"If we’re going to have the public services we want, we need to have a thriving economy."
In relation to the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union, Mr Kenny said Ireland could suffer the most.
"We've a billion in trade across the Irish sea every week. This could be seen as Ireland potentially... suffering the most of any because of a British decision to leave the European Union.”
Pressed by host Gavin Jennings on being absent in the media at certain crucial moments, Taoiseach replied: "[That] is absolute rubbish. I am available and will participate in all the debates that you have on RTÉ and every other television station.
"I have a list from here to Stoneybatter of all the interviews that people want me to do. I have a great story to tell."