Monday 24 October 2016

Labour angry over Fine Gael 'failure' to push for a Yes vote

Philip Ryan, Niall O'Connor and John Downing

Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30

John Lyons, TD
John Lyons, TD

The Labour Party is growing increasingly frustrated with the failure of some sections of Fine Gael to canvass for a 'Yes' vote in the Marriage Equality Referendum as the campaign enters its most crucial stage.

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Senior Labour figures have accused Fine Gael of seeking to reap the benefits of passing the referendum while a large section of its membership are refusing to actively campaigning in their constituencies.

Weekend polls showed the gap narrowing with days to go before the vote, and Labour sources insisted if the referendum is lost it will be down to the lack of "on the ground" campaigning by Fine Gael TDs and Senators.

However, there are concerns Labour support will be the worst hit if it is not passed.

Labour insisted on a same-sex marriage referendum in the Programme for Government and many in the party see the passing of the constitutional change as their legacy in office.

A Labour Cabinet minister said there is feeling within the party that Fine Gael is failing to do enough face-to-face campaigning, particularly in rural areas.

"There are full Labour canvasses every evening and people are rightfully asking, where are Fine Gael?" the minister said.

Dublin North West TD John Lyons said, apart from a few members who have made impressive contributions to the campaign, he has seen little else from the rest of the party.

Mr Lyons said he has seen "a lot of posters but not a lot of people" when he has been canvassing his constituency.

"There have been some trojan workers on the issue from Fine Gael: Frances Fitzgerald, Jerry Buttimer, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney. Otherwise, I haven't seen or heard a lot from Fine Gael," he told the Irish Independent.

Another senior party figure insisted Fine Gael is not "pulling its weight" when it comes to knocking on doors in both Dublin and rural constituencies.

"Labour has pulled out all the stops but you could talk about our Coalition partner not being as effective on the ground as they could have been. Fine Gael are happy go on the media but you don't come across them on the ground, even in Dublin," the source said.

Labour's parliamentary party chairman, Jack Wall, avoided any comment on the lack of commitment shown by Fine Gael TDs and Senators to canvassing for same-sex marriage.

Asked if he was disappointed about the absence of Fine Gael politicians on the canvass, he said: "I have no comment on that. Labour has done its bit. I would prefer to put it like that. Labour has been way in front of any party in its commitment to ensuring this referendum is carried."

The growing dissatisfaction within Labour prompted the decision to demand a party representative was on last night's crucial TV debating slot on 'Prime Time'.

As revealed by the Irish Independent, RTÉ had provisionally booked Health Minister Leo Varadkar for the slot after holding discussions with his officials.

But Labour said it had agreed previously that one of its party representatives would fill this slot - and put forward Communications Minister Alex White.

Despite RTÉ's stance, Labour refused to budge. Mr Varadkar instead represented the Government on the 'Claire Byrne Live' show on Monday.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fine Gael director of elections Simon Coveney have continuously sought to rally the membership to canvass at parliamentary party meetings.

But there is reluctance among some TDs, mostly from rural constituencies, to risk support less than a year out from an election by pushing constituents to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

Party officials have also admitted they are finding it difficult to convince some members to take part in events campaigning for a 'Yes' vote.

Irish Independent

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