Saturday 24 February 2018

Gilmore won't ask supporters to give FG transfers

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is seen through a glass alongside IFA president John Bryan and Labour spokesman on agriculture Sean Sherlock at the IFA headquarters in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is seen through a glass alongside IFA president John Bryan and Labour spokesman on agriculture Sean Sherlock at the IFA headquarters in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

'We endured two weeks of Fine Gael alleging the Labour Party is a high tax party. It is not'

LABOUR Party leader Eamon Gilmore will not ask party supporters to transfer their votes to his prospective coalition partners in Fine Gael or any other party.

Mr Gilmore's stance comes as trade union leaders continue to advise members to vote for left-wing parties, including Labour, and not Fine Gael.

The Communications Workers' Union is the latest union to advise its members to "vote in a selfish manner" by voting Labour and "continue their preferences through Sinn Fein, the United Left Alliance and any other like-minded Independent socialist candidates".

Fine Gael in government would be "the worst possible outcome" for its members, industries and the trade union movement, CWU general secretary Steve Fitzpatrick wrote in a letter to his 20,000 members.

In the first part of a series of interviews with the main party leaders in the countdown to Friday's ballot, Mr Gilmore told the Irish Independent he is not sure if the endorsement of union leaders such as ICTU president Jack O'Connor is helping his party's cause.

But Mr Gilmore said trade union leaders are entitled to express an opinion and people will either take heed or not.

"To be honest, I don't know whether it's helpful or not. I think any representative organisation has a right to express an opinion on the election. There is such a thing as free speech," he said.

Mr Gilmore said he's not going to tell supporters what way to transfer their votes and will only ask them to vote for Labour candidates.

In the long counts brought about by a record number of candidates, transfers will be crucial to the outcome and a transfer pact could help Fine Gael and Labour to maximise their seat numbers -- and maximise losses for Fianna Fail.

Labour transfers helped Fine Gael secure seats in the last general election, when the 'Mullingar Accord' pact was in place.

But Mr Gilmore said it was "patronising to voters" to ask them to pass on their votes to other parties after Labour.

Support for Labour and Mr Gilmore has dropped significantly over the course of the campaign, culminating in his party running a newspaper ad campaign against Fine Gael policies.

"The negative campaigning didn't start with the Labour Party. We had endured two weeks of Fine Gael alleging Labour is a high tax party. It is not. Our tax proposals are very clear," he said.

After frequent accusations over recent years of failing to set out his policies in a clear manner, Mr Gilmore has again been charged with flip-flopping.

Labour's new policy of seeking to go beyond 2014 to meet the target to reduce the deficit to 3pc of GDP has been honed in on by Fine Gael.

Mr Gilmore staunchly defended the policy and said trying to cut the deficit too quickly will actually do more damage to the economy.

Mr Gilmore is puzzled by the criticism of his position on water charges. After being opposed to the charges, he indicated last autumn he was in favour, provided meters were installed in every house.

"There are five pipes going into the house and you are charged for four of them and not the fifth, the fifth being water," he said in October.

During the election campaign, however, Labour has again been against water charges and there is no provision for it in their budget projections.

"The Labour Party is opposed to water charges. We adopted a position at our party conference last year on water charges," he said.

Mr Gilmore said it was not going to be practical to bring in water charges.

The 'Gilmore for Taoiseach' slogan has also been much derided as Fine Gael's lead over Labour has grown significantly. But Mr Gilmore does not intend to give up the pipedream.

"Not at all. We'll stick with it to the very end," he said. "You enter a contest, you enter it to win.

"We think a monopoly of power to one party is not a good idea. I don't think it would be stable either, incidentally. What we want is a balanced government -- a balanced government that is fair."

Irish Independent

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