Saturday 22 October 2016

No problem over Government line-up for RTE debate - White


John Downing and Philip Ryan

Published 19/05/2015 | 03:00

LABOUR's Alex White has insisted there is "no problem" over his being chosen to lead the Government's side in the last RTE television debate on the same-sex marriage referendum.

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RTE sources confirmed that Health Minister Leo Varadkar - who has publicly said he is gay - was lined up to do tomorrow's television debate closing the Government campaign.

But the Government insisted that the slot had to go to Communications Minister Alex White, who is Labour's campaign director. The change was seen as continuing coalition tensions as the general election draws nearer.


However, Mr White insisted he was always supposed to do the debate on Primetime tomorrow night. He said RTE talked about three slots: one for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, one for Fine Gael campaign director Simon Coveney, and the last one for himself on Labour's behalf.

"There is absolutely no problem between myself and Leo. There's plenty of coverage and plenty of issues to be teased out," the minister said.

Mr Varadkar appeared on the Claire Byrne Show on RTE last night where he discussed Friday's referendum.

Mr White said the issue of surrogacy must be not dragged into the referendum debate. He also insisted that a 'Yes' vote on Friday will not raise conflicts for church teaching in schools on marriage.

Mr White tried to make light of his party's continuing poor popularity ratings which are about one-third of their historic vote in the last general election in February 2011. The poll shows Labour languishing on 7pc, while its coalition partner Fine Gael soared to 28pc.

Tanaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton is marginally the country's preferred political leader but still just a third of people surveyed are satisfied with her performance.

Mr White said Fine Gael, which gained 4pc in the latest Ipsos/MRBI survey, was merely "recovering more quickly" than the junior partners from the effects of having to impose austerity.

"But I think that recovery will come for Labour. There's a long way between now and the general election which takes place next February or March," Mr White said.

"I think when the people see the important work the Labour Party has done, people will vote for us."

The Communications Minister would not be drawn on whether Labour should strategically distance themselves from FG in the coming months.

He said the general election would be about people thinking seriously about their own futures and taking a hard look at parties who claimed there were "easy answers".


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