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Friday 15 December 2017

Coalition vote transfer pact in peril as rift grows

Aodhan o Riordan
Aodhan o Riordan

JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

A VOTE transfer pact between the coalition parties in the local and European elections is in jeopardy, as tensions remain high in Government.

The relationship between Fine Gael and the Labour Party remains strained this weekend, despite last week's attempt by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to insist they were working well together.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore were forced to reassure ministers they had not fallen out at last week's cabinet meeting.

But anger is particularly high within the Labour ranks over the perceived "upstairs-downstairs" attitude of Fine Gael. The rift between the parties has intensified ahead of the forthcoming local and European elections, where Labour is struggling to avoid a series of demoralising defeats.

A vote transfer pact between the parties might help to reduce the losses. In the past, parties in government together have asked supporters to transfer their votes to their coalition partners.

But in an indication of growing backbench anger, Labour TD Aodhan O Riordain told the Sunday Independent he did not want to see any formal agreement.

"Fine Gael can go swing if they come to us looking for a vote transfer pact in the council and European elections," he said. "They have behaved disgracefully, particularly when it comes to cutbacks on disability and council house rent increases. Fine Gael can forget about it when it comes to our support unless they learn to behave more appropriately."

His party colleague, Arthur Spring, said Labour was particularly annoyed by the apparent view of its coalition partner that issues such as agriculture were exclusively a Fine Gael preserve.

"That is emphatically not the case and Fine Gael need to learn this. They have to learn lessons from the past about the consequences of that upstairs-downstairs gene, it didn't always end well," he said.

Significantly Fine Gael figures did not dismiss the unease of their Labour colleagues.

"This attitude has been there since Christmas and there is a concern that it could develop; it is a real cause of concern for Kenny, he knows that Fine Gael need Labour to stay if they are to see out the duration until 2016, that can't happen though if they flounce off in 2014," he said.

Labour TD Michael McNamara warned Fine Gael's own errors were impacting upon his party's fortunes. "Fine Gael would want to be getting its own house in order, their performance on Irish Water did not do the reputation of the Coalition any good," he said.

Irish Independent

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