Monday 20 February 2017

Labour takes the strain but Fine Gael will share any glory

Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30

Alex White
Alex White

It's only Wednesday. But Alex White will be hard to top for political understatement of the week.

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"Fine Gael is recovering more quickly than Labour," the Communications Minister said when asked for his reaction to opinion polls which left his party stuck on 7pc, while Fine Gael is up four points to 28pc.

Mr White is also Labour campaign director for the same-sex marriage referendum. His seat at Cabinet precludes overt off-side comments about Fine Gael, for the moment at least.

But other Labour colleagues are less constrained or patient about Fine Gael's absence from the referendum hustings. Labour's Dublin North West TD, John Lyons, is a model of good manners and the courtesy of his reply drives home the depth of Labour feeling on the issue.

"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. I see a lot of posters - not a lot of people," Mr Lyons told the Irish Independent.

The assessment dovetails with an off-the-record summation given to this writer by a veteran Fine Gael member.

"It is one thing to back the same-sex referendum - quite another to go out and actively advocate for it."

Essentially, many Fine Gael backbench TDs feel votes will be scarce next time. Why alienate conservative voters?

But success brings its own political dividends. This referendum has been endorsed by both Government parties.

Fine Gael will not be absent from claiming whatever available glory there is if Yes carries the day at Saturday's count.

Meanwhile, Labour will continue to take the canvass strain.

Irish Independent

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