Friday 15 December 2017

Gilmore dismisses notion of coalition at any price

Labour leader says party could well join opposition

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore and his newly-elected TDs in happy mood as they gathered at Leinster House yesterday, while a business-like FG leader Enda Kenny arrives with one of his backroom team
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore and his newly-elected TDs in happy mood as they gathered at Leinster House yesterday, while a business-like FG leader Enda Kenny arrives with one of his backroom team

Fionnan Sheahan and Fiach Kelly

The Fine Gael and Labour Party coalition negotiation teams spent their opening day of talks going through up-to-date economic briefings from the Department of Finance.

The prospective government parties have until this weekend to thrash out a deal on a new coalition as counting in the 2011 General Election continues.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore curtly dismissed suggestions his party's old guard desperately wanted to get into government as they had only one last shot at power.

And he said his party would go into opposition if the talks did not work out.

The two biggest parties in the next Dail have until this weekend to agree on the policies of the new government.

Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore met again yesterday morning, before handing over to their negotiating teams.

The formal negotiations are taking place in the Sycamore Room of Government Buildings.

The negotiators are understood to have received the latest briefings from the Department of Finance on the current and projected state of the public finances.

Briefings

The briefings also covered the current state of play in the banking sector.

The details were intended to inform the parties before getting down to the nitty-gritty of their negotiations.

Fine Gael's team is made up of Michael Noonan, Phil Hogan and Alan Shatter, supported by policy adviser Andrew McDowell.

Labour's team includes Brendan Howlin, Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte, backed by policy adviser Colm O'Reardon.

Following the hour-long meeting between Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore at 9am, the teams met at noon.

They broke from 2pm to 3:30pm and continued until 6:30pm. The talks then reconvened at 8pm.

The key sticking point between the two parties is expected to be on economic policy, where there are a lot of differences.

Mr Gilmore acknowledged the talks would centre on this area. "That will be one of the issues that will be under discussion. Everybody has a fair idea where the points of difference are in terms of policy," he said.

Joined by a record number of new Labour TDs, Mr Gilmore did not rule out going into opposition. Labour has 37 TDs and Fine Gael 76, but there is a recount ongoing in Galway West. Mr Gilmore said his party was the second largest in Dail Eireann and had "some business" to do.

"We've started discussions with Fine Gael to see if it is possible to negotiate a programme for government and a basis for having a coalition government. Obviously if those discussions don't succeed then we will be in opposition," he said.

Mr Gilmore rejected the suggestion his party's ageing front ranks were desperate to get into power and it was their last chance before retirement. "At its kindest, it's a distinctly ageist comment," he said. A Fine Gael spokesman said talks "are continuing".

Meanwhile, Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish has pledged his support to Enda Kenny to become the new Taoiseach.

Mr Grealish, who was elected as a PD member in 2002 and who supported the Fianna Fail/Green coalition, said he contacted Mr Kenny yesterday to offer his support.

"People want a stable government. The country is voting for change, that is clear, and he's a west of Ireland man, so why would I not support him," he said.

Irish Independent

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