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Kenny denies row with Labour Party

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has denied his party is embroiled in a divisive row with potential coalition partners Labour.

Amid fallout over stealth taxes, Mr Kenny was also forced to try to repair damage done to his relations with the country's top trade unionists.

Mr Kenny, campaigning in Cork, apologised to the boss of Congress, David Begg, after the Fine Gael website labelled trade unions one of the big vested interests to blame for the current economic crisis.

"I'm sorry if David Begg is offended," he said.

Mr Kenny insisted the reference, which lumped the unions in with bankers, bondholders and developers, had not been included in the party manifesto.

Siptu general president Jack O'Connor, who earlier this week claimed a Fine Gael government was a recipe for disaster, said he was not surprised by the comments on the party website.

The dispute with the umbrella trade union group could do further damage to relations with Labour, already soured by tit-for-tat attacks on both parties' economic plans.

But Mr Kenny insisted he was not getting involved in a war of words with his closest political rivals and was focused on the electorate.

"I'm not having a row with the Labour Party," he said.

"My comments and conversations with the Irish people - there's something much more than bickering involved here.

"If the Labour Party wants to take sniping shots at Fine Gael from the sidelines, I'm far more interested in listening to the people."

Mr Kenny said a letter should have been sent to Congress chief Mr Begg explaining the website remarks.

The Fine Gael leader refused to say whether the tax row with Labour would increase pressure during possible negotiations on a programme for government.

The two parties are first and second in the polls with some experts predicting single party control for Fine Gael if it can draw on support from some independents.

The two parties fired broadsides at one another yesterday with claims that Labour would hit households for another 1,300 euro in tax each year and Fine Gael 1,000 euro. Labour has also been using newspapers adverts to attack Fine Gael.

PA Media