Labour accused of 'cuddling' up to FF in jobs mission row
THE war of words between Fine Gael and the Labour Party over Mary Coughlan's jobs mission to the US intensified last night -- as the Tanaiste touched down in Chicago.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen also waded into the argument, accusing Fine Gael of engaging in "political chicanery" and saying "the country has to get on with its business".
But the increasingly bitter spat between the two main opposition parties escalated, with Fine Gael's Alan Shatter accusing Labour of giving Fianna Fail a "political cuddle".
The tension between the main opposition parties follows opinion polls showing Labour vying with Fine Gael in the race to lead the next government.
"The changed political landscape has come as big a shock to Fine Gael as it has to Fianna Fail," a spokesman for Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said.
"Labour is not going to be put back in its box and they'll just have to accept that."
Labour gave Ms Coughlan a free pass to travel to the US after Fine Gael effectively blocked the trip by refusing to match her with one of its TDs for Dail votes.
A clearly rattled Fine Gael, which has been widely perceived to have been outmanoeuvred on the issue, upped the ante yesterday.
Mr Shatter, the party's justice spokesman, accused Fianna Fail and Labour of "colluding in the staging of a political fantasy".
"No one should take seriously Eamon Gilmore's protestations that the Labour Party will not after the next election, if given the opportunity, join up with Fianna Fail in Government," he said.
And Shane McEntee, a backbench Fine Gael TD, said Enda Kenny should leave Labour behind and focus on achieving an overall majority.
Mr McEntee described the decision by Ruairi Quinn, Labour's education spokesman, to give Ms Coughlan a Dail 'pair' as "a betrayal".
"Labour has effectively given us a clear indication that they are willing to jump into bed with Fianna Fail when it suits them," the Meath East TD said.
He added that Labour backed Fine Gael's opposition to the stag hunting bill before the summer, but then changed position.
"The very next day they said that they would not revoke the law if in power. They have completely contradicted themselves and this kind of behaviour will be no good to Fine Gael or the country when it is time for a general election."
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said trade missions will continue despite Fine Gael's strategy of pulling pairs and said the national interest transcended party interest.
"It's important for a small country like ours to maintain its exports, to get out there and sell the country and sell what it is we have to offer," Mr Cowen said.
"That will be done with ministerial leadership from time to time and will also be done by myself. I'm going on a trade mission near the end of January to China.
"The country has to get on with its business, the Government has to get on with its business, the parliament has to get on with its business and we all have to be sensible.
"I hope that sensible approach will continue because I don't think any of us, whatever people might feel about it, would want to see the country being the loser."