Thursday 23 February 2017

Fine Gael in transfers bid to block Gallagher

Colm Kelpie and Michael Brennan

FINE Gael is desperately trying to block Sean Gallagher from racing to victory by urging party members to row in behind Michael D Higgins.

In a last-ditch attempt to derail the Cavan businessman's shock surge in support, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar called for party rank and file to give the Labour candidate their number two vote.

He is the first minister to publicly call for Fine Gael transfers to go to the coalition partner, as Gay Mitchell languishes near the bottom of the polls and Mr Higgins has slipped to second place.

"Yes, I certainly will be giving my number two vote to Michael D Higgins," Mr Varadkar said.

"And I'd like to see Fine Gael people doing that too."

Mitchell campaign sources played down Mr Varadkar's transfer pledge as something that was always likely to happen between the coalition partners.

"It's political reality that Fine Gael and Labour supporters are likely to transfer to one another," one source said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that he will discuss the issue of a transfer pact this week with Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore.

A spokesman for frontrunner Mr Gallagher -- who was campaigning yesterday in Longford, Roscommon and Leitrim as two further polls showed him well in front of Mr Higgins -- accused the government parties of acting as if they were owed the presidency.

"This is typical of big political parties who seem to think that the presidency is a trophy that they are entitled to," he said. "The public themselves can make up their own mind."He said the campaign was facing a tough task because they do not have a party political machine on the ground trying to get the vote out.

In a reference to Mr Gallagher, Mr Varadkar said he was concerned about the outcome of the presidential election.

"We've learned very little as a country over the last four years," he said on RTE's 'This Week'.

Reciprocal

No Labour minister has yet come out to call for party members to give Mr Mitchell their number two in a reciprocal arrangement.

But canvassing on Grafton Street yesterday, Mr Higgins and Mr Gilmore said they would take transfers from anybody.

"I welcome number twos from any candidate," Mr Higgins said.

Mr Mitchell has said that he's going to need transfers himself, claiming the Fine Gael vote would not be enough.

In August he suggested he would benefit from a Fianna Fail candidate in the field as it would have been likely he or she would have been knocked out of the race and he would have benefited from the transfers.

Irish Independent

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