Fine Gael in turmoil over fears of Labour 'betrayal'
A RIFT was exposed at the top of Fine Gael last night over its assertion that Labour is prepared to go into government with Fianna Fail.
Fine Gael has repeatedly said that Labour will share power with Fianna Fail after Labour leader Eamon Gilmore gave Tanaiste Mary Coughlan a Dail 'pair' to travel to the US on a jobs and trade mission.
However, this was contradicted yesterday by Michael Noonan, Fine Gael's finance spokesman, who said he believed that Mr Gilmore was honest and did not want to share power with Fianna Fail.
"I always found Eamon Gilmore very truthful and very honest in any dealing I had with him," said Mr Noonan.
But the Limerick TD added: "The kind of difficulty we have in Fine Gael is that Dick Spring's assurances prior to '92 were equally strong and then there was a government formed with Fianna Fail.
"So we would have a doubt but I don't have any lack of confidence or trust in Eamon Gilmore," Mr Noonan said on RTE's 'News at One'.
Fine Gael sources last night said they intended to hammer home the message that Labour would do a deal with Fianna Fail -- but Mr Noonan's stance is inconsistent with statements over the last few days from several of his party colleagues.
On Tuesday, Fine Gael's justice spokesman Alan Shatter said: "Nobody could believe Eamon Gilmore's protestations that the Labour Party will not join up with Fianna Fail in government after the next election, if given the opportunity."
Meath East TD Shane McEntee accused Labour of "betrayal" and said it would "jump into bed with Fianna Fail", while education spokesman Fergus O'Dowd claimed that Fine Gael was the only party that would not go into government with Fianna Fail.
A spokesman for Mr Gilmore accused Fine Gael of living in "fantasy land".
"They talk about Labour giving Fianna Fail a cuddle over a one-off pair for Mary Coughlan's trip, but Fine Gael are going to vote with the Government on the (banking) guarantee.
"I wouldn't call that a cuddle, I'd call that full consummation," the spokesman said.