Gilmore asks voters to give by-election transfers to Fine Gael
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore says anyone voting for Labour in the Meath East by-election next week should give their second preference to Fine Gael and keep votes within the Coalition.
Labour sources said earlier this week that Mr Gilmore was unlikely to give a transfer recommendation, but he told the Irish Independent: "If I was a voter in Meath, I would give my second preference to Helen McEntee."
However, Mr Gilmore said he's "not sure that big grand calls from political leaders to voters as to how they cast their second or third preference, I'm not sure that works in practice".
Fine Gael is expected to officially tell its voters to give second preferences to Labour candidate Eoin Holmes in Wednesday's poll, although it is understood to have already been giving out these instructions on the doorsteps.
It comes after Fianna Fail candidate Thomas Byrne asked for transfers from Sinn Fein's Darren O'Rourke, only for Sinn Fein to snub this request and tell its voters not to transfer to any of the main parties.
The contest is seen as being extremely close between Ms McEntee and Mr Byrne.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be in the constituency over the next three days, and may make a transfer recommendation for Fine Gael as soon as today.
He will arrive back in Ireland this morning following his St Patrick's Day trip to the US. Mr Kenny will get straight off a Government jet and travel to Dunshaughlin, arriving just after eight o'clock for a breakfast with Ms McEntee's campaign team, which will be followed by a canvass.
Mr Gilmore is also expected to visit the constituency, while Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will also be in Meath East.
"Elections are competitive and between now and next Wednesday every one of us will be looking for a first preference vote," Mr Gilmore added.
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are preparing for a big push to get their voters out, with turnout likely to be one of a number of decisive factors which could swing the seat either way.
But Fianna Fail director of elections Darragh O'Brien says reduced polling hours will have a huge effect on turnout.
When the writ was moved for the by-election, Environment Minister Phil Hogan announced polling would take place between 8am and 9pm, reduced from the usual polling hours of 7am to 10pm. Mr Hogan said the decision was taken to reduce costs.
"It's taking two hours off the usual polling hours and that will hit in the morning especially," Mr O'Brien, a Dublin-North based senator, said.
"We have come across a huge amount of people while canvassing in the past few weeks who said this will have an effect on them, especially shift workers like firefighters, nurses and gardai."
Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes said Fine Gael was very happy with the campaign so far.
"We just need to get the vote out now, the turnout is going to be hugely important," Mr Hayes said.