Tuesday 6 December 2016

Labour calls on Kenny to delay election until unemployment rate falls below 9pc

Niall O'Connor and Marese McDonagh

Published 06/10/2015 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to ensure that the jobless rate falls to 6pc over the lifetime of the next Government
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to ensure that the jobless rate falls to 6pc over the lifetime of the next Government

Taoiseach Enda Kenny should resist pressure to call an early general election until the point at which the rate of unemployment falls below 9pc, senior Labour Party figures have warned.

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Opposition within the junior coalition party to a ­November poll has hardened in recent days - that is in sharp contrast to the views being ­expressed within Fine Gael.

Tánaiste Joan Burton and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin are known to be strongly of the view that the election should not take place until February at the earliest.

Senior Labour sources agree that a drop in unemployment to below 9pc should be the factor that triggers a decision to go to polls. Unemployment currently sits at 9.7pc - the lowest level in over seven years. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to ensure that the jobless rate falls to 6pc over the lifetime of the next Government.

But Labour figures believe it would be foolish of Mr Kenny to call an early election for a number of reasons, particularly the expected continued fall in the Live Register over the coming months.

"People are underestimating the psychological impact there will be if we reach a point where unemployment hits the 8pc figures," said a Labour ­Cabinet source. Another senior Labour figure agreed, adding that ­Tánaiste Joan Burton is ­especially opposed to an early poll.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny ­yesterday refused to be drawn on whether he plans to call a November election.

He said there appears to be "a million opinion makers and one decision maker".

Pressed on whether there would be an election before Christmas, Mr Kenny said: "You don't expect me to comment on that. People want to speculate about everything I do in the context of an election, but I have got to make that decision. I will make my decision in the best interest of the country of course."

The Taoiseach was speaking in Killala, Co Mayo, where he laid the foundation stone at a new €180m biomass power station. "My focus is on the Budget", he added.

Last night, Labour junior minister Kevin Humphreys said he believed it would be "wrong" for Mr Kenny to call an early election as a result of the ­ongoing work of the Banking Inquiry.

"The inquiry still has a ­report to complete and calling an early election could cause that work to collapse. That would be a wrong decision," Mr Humphreys told the Irish Independent.

The Banking Inquiry is not due to publish its final report until January at the earliest.

Irish Independent

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