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Monday 22 January 2018

Gilmore to delay conference if FG talks need time

The Labour leader warned against setting "artificial deadlines" ahead of continued talks between himself and Taoiseach-elect Enda Kenny later today.

The special Labour conference is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon and, despite speculation of a delay, it is expected to go ahead to allow delegates to vote on a coalition deal.

But Mr Gilmore last night said it could still be pushed back at the last minute if necessary.

Mr Gilmore, speaking in Athens at a summit of the Party of European Socialists (PES), the grouping to which Labour belongs in the European Parliament, said: "There are issues that have to be settled and that have to resolved and you just have to take your time at them."

"You can just never be certain that you're going to conclude by a certain time.

"As of now, our intention is to go ahead on Sunday provided we have reached an agreement."

But he added: "There are some issues that have to be resolved."

He told his PES colleagues about the negotiations with Fine Gael. But he said he would not go to his party conference unless he was happy with the deal he got.

"I won't be putting it to the conference in the first place unless I am satisfied with it and I'm prepared to recommend it," he said.

"And then it'll be a decision for the delegates at the conference. It's their decision," he added.

Mr Gilmore refused to be publicly drawn on whether Labour wanted the Department of Finance portfolio.

"Our focus in the discussions has been what we would be going to do, rather than who gets what portfolio, and that's something for down the line," he said.

Mr Gilmore's call for a reduction in the interest rate on the EU-IMF deal was backed up at the conference yesterday by other members of the PES.

These included former Danish prime minister Poul Rasmussen, now chairman of the PES, and Greek prime minister George Papandreou.

Mr Papandreou held a one-on-one meeting with Mr Gilmore, who said both Ireland and Greece wanted to renegotiate the EU-IMF interest rate.

Mr Rasmussen also said the European Council must decide at its crucial March 25 meeting to bring the interest rate down for Ireland and Greece.

"The message from the PES to the European Council is: 'It's time for you to bring down the interest rate for Greece and for Ireland'," he said. "Bring the interest rate down for our common interest."

Mr Gilmore was congratulated on Labour's performance in the general election by leaders at the summit including Martin Schulz, the leader of the PES in the European Parliament.

Irish Independent

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