Charlie Flanagan says sorry to Pat Rabbitte over post office closures row
FINE Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan has apologised to senior Labour figures, including Pat Rabbitte, after his party targeted the minister over potential post office closures.
Mr Flanagan intervened to defuse a row between the coalition partners this week, which culminated in a number of Labour TDs publicly hitting out at their Fine Gael colleagues.
Tempers flared after it emerged Fine Gael headquarters encouraged its own backbenchers to heap pressure on Mr Rabbitte by sending out a press release which singled him out in the opening paragraph.
The move sparked a furious backlash from Labour figures.
Tensions remained high during the week and led one Labour TD, Arthur Spring, to threaten an early general election.
He claimed that his mobile number was handed out by Fine Gael figures in his Kerry constituency, who told people protesting against the potential closures to lobby Labour.
"Fine Gael lads, you're heading for a general election, not a local election if you keep this smart-alec (behaviour) up, I tell you that," Mr Spring told the Dail.
The Irish Independent has learned that Mr Flanagan intervened in a bid to reassure the junior coalition partner.
The Laois/Offaly TD personally approached Mr Rabbitte and Labour Chief Whip Emmet Stagg and apologised for what he said represented a "major embarrassment" for Fine Gael.
"There was no malice behind the email but it shouldn't have happened.
"Charlie Flanagan felt it was important on behalf of Fine Gael to step in because there was concern about how angry Labour TDs were feeling," said a senior party source. The Government has now pledged to carry out a review of the post office network as ministers in both parties rejected claims of mass closures.
The claims stem from a Grant Thornton report, commissioned by the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU), which predicts that almost 600 post offices face closure by 2017.