Friday 6 December 2019

Cameron backing for Kenny on eve of election

British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: Reuters
British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: Reuters
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

British Prime Minister David Cameron has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the eve of the election wishing him well.

In an unusual move just hours before the opening of poll stations, Mr Cameron sent a letter to Enda Kenny saying he is "profoundly grateful" for his support on the recent Brexit negotiations. And he put a personal note at the end, saying: "My very best wishes for tomorrow's election" before handwriting: "Good luck!"

The timing is seen as unusual given prime ministers tend to steer clear of anything that could be construed as an endorsement of another politician during an election campaign.

However, Mr Cameron credits the Fine Gael leader with "helping" him secure a successful outcome at last week's European Council meeting.

"It made a real difference, and I am profoundly grateful to you," he wrote.

Sources in the British government told the Irish Independent that Mr Cameron considers the Taoiseach one of his closest allies in Europe and would like to see him re-elected - although he could never state this outright.

"They have worked well together and it would be a case of starting from scratch if somebody else is elected," said the source.

In his letter, dated February 26 and signed 'David', the Conservative Party leader said that he was "especially grateful for the patience and understanding" Mr Kenny showed during the talks and for his "readiness to be creative in exploring all possible solutions".

The Taoiseach has already made several public speeches, including in London, backing a vote for the United Kingdom to stay within the European Union.

Last month, Mr Cameron was perceived to have come close to publicly endorsing Mr Kenny during a joint press conference when he said he looked forward to working with the Taoiseach "in the months and years ahead".

But yesterday's letter will be seen in political circles as even more significant.

There was controversy during the 2007 election when then-Prime Minister Tony Blair invited Bertie Ahern to address Westminster mid-campaign.

The historic speech gave Mr Ahern an opportunity to focus attention on his work for the peace process at what was a very difficult time for his personal popularity.

Meanwhile Mr Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton staged a joint press conference yesterday to appeal to voters to re-elect the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

Mr Kenny said he had worked with Ms Burton and her predecessor Eamon Gilmore "in the interests of the country and the interests of the people".

"I would like the opportunity to continue that in the time ahead," he said.

When the Tánaiste was asked whether she would consider working with Fianna Fáil, Mr Kenny interjected: "You can't trust him. They talked before about temporary little arrangements with the PDs."

She said: "I have to say in terms of negotiations and discussions between myself and the Taoiseach there has been 100pc respect and parity of esteem.

"Yes we come from different backgrounds. Yes we come from different parties.

"We come from different life experiences - but we have focused relentlessly on one common purpose, just trying to restore the country and recover the country.

"And if people want the security of developing more of that then I really feel they have to vote number one for Labour and after that to transfer to Fine Gael."

Ms Burton added: "A small shift in voting intentions in terms of both parties would actual return a stable government for the next five years."

Mr Kenny also asked Fine Gael supporters to transfer to the Labour Party.

Irish Independent

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