Friday 9 December 2016

Fianna Fáil won't rethink coalition policy in spite of polls

Kevin Doyle and Ralph Riegel

Published 23/11/2015 | 02:30

Micheál Martin
Micheál Martin

Fianna Fáil won't waver from its policy of not doing business with Fine Gael - because it needs to offer an alternative government, the party's new director of elections has said.

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A weekend opinion poll again suggested that the most likely parties to make up the 79 seats needed to be in government after the election would be Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. But Billy Kelleher told the Irish Independent that this is not, and will not be, an option for voters.

"The bottom line is Fianna Fáil wants to provide alternative to Fine Gael. The idea that we can just have a coronation is ridiculous and not what voters would expect," he said.

The poll put Fine Gael on 31pc, followed by Fianna Fáil on 19pc and Sinn Féin on 18pc. The Labour Party continues to stagnate on 7pc, while Independents and others made up 25pc.

Not everybody within Fianna Fáil supports the position of leader Micheál Martin (pictured) on future coalition options, but Mr Kelleher insisted: "We want to ensure that there is an alternative to Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. All I did was highlight the challenges in doing that."

Carlow/Kilkenny TD Jim McGuinness has said that by rebuffing Fine Gael in advance of the election, the party is "fighting the election on just being an opposition party".

Others, like Willie O'Dea and Éamon Ó Cuív, have said that if Fianna Fáil is not in a position to lead the next government, then it should take on the role of lead opposition again.

Mr Kelleher said: "This Government has failed in key areas, case and point being health.

"We have a clear alternative view on this. It's a rational, fair point for any party to make. We are the only party that can offer an alternative.

"The party we are ruling out in terms of support is Fine Gael because we have to provide a credible alternative to that proposal."

Tánaiste Joan Burton admitted disappointment with the third poll in recent weeks that left the Labour Party on 7pc.

Speaking in Cork, where the party was holding its youth conference, Ms Burton predicted that Labour would recover but that the 'bounce' may not happen until the eve of the General Election.

"I think the last couple of opinion polls really haven't moved very much. They are all within margins of error," she said.

"My own view is that a lot of people will not reach a conclusion about their voting intention until very much closer to the election."

Ms Burton said she was not aware of constituency analysis carried out for the Labour Party, which shows that it could lose 20 seats.

On Saturday, the Irish Independent reported on the study, which was commissioned by the party's headquarters and shows that it could be left with as few as 10 seats post-election.

It said there is the potential to take five seats in Dublin, as well as others in constituencies such as Limerick, Wexford, Tipperary and Louth.

Ms Burton said: "I see it (the report) referenced in the papers but I have never seen such an analysis. There are a lot of discussions, there is a lot of speculation. Everybody does, in relation to every constituency, all the time, (review) strengths, weaknesses and so on.

"We have been carrying out an amount of polling around the country. In fact, the outcome of that polling has been quite positive."

The 'Sunday Business Post'/Red C poll also broke down the support for Independents and others. Actual Independents are on 14pc, while Shane Ross's Independent Alliance is on 4pc, alongside the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit group.

The Social Democrats are on 3pc, one point ahead of the Green Party.

Lucinda Creighton's Renua is struggling on just 1pc.

Irish Independent

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