Tánaiste slaps down White over election pact comments
Published 12/08/2015 | 02:30
Tánaiste Joan Burton has sought to distance herself from remarks made by Communications Minister Alex White about a pre-election deal with Fine Gael.
In a move that will be seen as an embarrassing slap-down of Mr White, sources close to the Tánaiste dismissed outright his suggestion of a full-blown policy pact.
"There is little enough chance of a policy pact between the two parties," a source told the Irish Independent.
The source ruled out a return to a "Mullingar Accord", which then leader Pat Rabbitte signed with Enda Kenny ahead of the 2007 general election.
However, an arrangement on voting transfers may be agreed in the dying days of the election campaign.
Mr White took to the airwaves last weekend to explicitly call for an election pact between the Coalition partners.
"When you look at what we have achieved in Government over the past four-and-a-half years, which has been enormous, I think there is a very strong case indeed for there to be an accommodation between ourselves, the governing parties, to ensure what we have achieved can be built upon in the years ahead," said Mr White.
Mr White said such an accommodation would be looked at by the Government partners in the coming months. "I believe in what we have achieved in the last four-and-a-half years in Government; I don't see a better combination than Fine Gael and Labour," he said.
Mr White, who was a failed contender in the Labour leadership race last year, faces an uphill battle to retain his seat in Dublin South.
A Labour minister yesterday insisted Mr White made the suggestion because such an arrangement could benefit him in his constituency. However, he added that Mr White was not considering the situation of the Labour Party as a whole.
"Alex said that because it suits him, but it won't work elsewhere in the country," the minister told the Irish Independent.
The possibility of a pre-election pact with Fine Gael is causing serious unease among most Labour Party TDs, with many believing such a deal will cost them votes before the ballot boxes are open.
Junior minister Ged Nash, as well as Willie Penrose, Anne Ferris and Dominic Hannigan, said it was far too early to be in discussions about such a deal, as did Eric Byrne and Arthur Spring.
Mr Nash said both parties worked "extremely well together" in recent months. However, he warned that Labour professes a "different ideology".
Mr Penrose said Labour's contribution to the country has been "minimised and downplayed by everyone, including Fine Gael".
Ms Ferris pointed out that the Mullingar Accord "didn't work".
She added: "When things prove they don't work, it is stupid to try them again."
However, Cork South-West TD Michael McCarthy weighed in behind Mr White, insisting a joint platform would benefit both parties in taking on Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.