Thursday 22 February 2018

Burton plays down plan to 'take out' weaker Fine Gael candidates

Members of ONE with Tánaiste Joan Burton at the launch of the
2016 Irish Youth Ambassador Programme in Dublin yesterday.
Photo: Marc O’Sullivan
Members of ONE with Tánaiste Joan Burton at the launch of the 2016 Irish Youth Ambassador Programme in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan

Kevin Doyle and Barry Lennon

Tánaiste Joan Burton has said she is "very confident" of retaining her seat as she played down a Labour Party plan to "take out" weaker Fine Gael candidates in a number of constituencies.

The party leader insisted there was no problem with the vote transfer pact between the two parties, while deputy leader Alan Kelly said there won't be a "specific targeting of candidates".

Both senior politicians are seen as being in a fight to retain their seats in Dublin West and Tipperary, where Fine Gael have multiple candidates.

The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that Labour believes it must persuade Fine Gael voters to give their second preferences to the junior coalition partner in constituencies where there are at least three Government candidates.

This is seen as offering the best chance of saving a number of their own ministers, including Alex White, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Kevin Humphreys.

But Ms Burton said it was "not an issue" in her own constituency, where Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Senator Catherine Noone are on the Fine Gael ticket.

"Both Leo and I are extremely well-known candidates. People like national politicians in Dublin West. They like me being involved. They liked Brian Lenihan being involved. They like Leo being involved," she said.

Ms Burton said she was "very confident" of retaining her seat.

"I've always concentrated at least a third of my time on the constituency, particularly on developing facilities and attracting employment.

"The response is pretty positive. Not from everybody but from a sufficient number of people," she said.

And Mr Kelly said the party "will always be targeting seats in every constituency and there is no specific targeting of candidates".

"We will be doing our best to win every seat," he said.

Meanwhile, Ms Burton has said she is Mr Kelly's boss, despite the Environment Minister saying in the 'Sunday Independent' that he is his own boss.

"Of course I am in the sense that I am the leader of the Labour Party, that members voted for and Alan as deputy leader.

"I've been happy with how he handled his brief, sorting out the issue in relation to Irish Water and really making headway against homelessness," Ms Burton said.

Asked about Mr Kelly's comment that he finds power to be a drug, Ms Burton said: "I have to say Alan has a great way with words and is a great campaigner. I probably have a slightly different approach.

"I enjoy being involved in the activities that politics brings. But politics is an enormous privilege and it's also a very important undertaking."

Tánaiste hits the campaign trail - against poverty

Tánaiste Joan Burton hit the campaign trail early yesterday, launching One's 2016 Irish Youth Ambassador Programme.

The advocacy group sees 27 Irish young people join 300 volunteers from across Europe.

The organisation aims to take action to end extreme poverty, especially in Africa. The issue is one close to Ms Burton, who lectured in Tanzania.

"We are determined to continue Ireland's overseas development tradition, and this year we are spending over €640m on official development assistance an increase of €40m on last year," she said.

On the General Election date, Ms Burton added: "It doesn't matter markedly whether it's on a Thursday or a Friday."

Irish Independent

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