Sunday 25 September 2016

Fair play to unlikely allies Kelly and Varadkar

Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30

Alan Kelly. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Alan Kelly. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Once again, Leo Varadkar plays the role of the boy who told the political establishment that the emperor had no clothes.

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And this time he was boosted and preceded along the way by an unlikely ally, Alan Kelly.

The tricky issue was would Michael Lowry, condemned by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty in his 2011 report, be fit for recruitment to support a short-falling Fine Gael-Labour coalition after the general election. The Taoiseach ducked and dived and famously managed to avoid the direct question all of 11 times over the weekend.

Tánaiste Joan Burton appeared to take refuge in an assertion that no Independent TDs should be put in that position. Others, in less prominent positions in both Government parties, nailed their colours to the mast that there must be "no Lowry deal".

But early yesterday at Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar said that there were a number of Independent TDs, including, but not limited to Mr Lowry, who had issues with the law.

He would hate to see a government dependent on somebody who could be in court or potentially even in prison. Pretty straight and to-the-point talk in the "Leonian style". He started a certain chain reaction across Leinster House.

But the Taoiseach, via his spokesman, still said he was not changing his stance as displayed over the weekend. He wanted a return of Fine Gael-Labour and was not considering Independents - any Independents.

The interesting thing here is that the Environment Minister and Labour deputy leader had already made matters clear the previous evening. Alan Kelly firmly ruled out any coalition involving Labour being propped up by Michael Lowry.

In fairness to the one they sometimes call 'AK47', this was pretty stand-up stuff, given that he is standing in Tipperary, and may well need all the transfers he can get - even from Mr Lowry. Compare with Tipperary FG candidates Tom Hayes and Noel Coonan, who did not rush to alienate supporters of their former party colleague. In yet another example of realpolitik, they saw no need to lose scarce votes on this issue.

Mr Kelly's stance also prompted Ms Burton to be very specific. "The Tánaiste believes the individual concerned should not be part of any government," her spokesman said last night.

But in all of this, the big winner is not hard to find.

Michael Lowry has got publicity he could never buy. It enhances his already burgeoning re-election campaign.

Irish Independent

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