TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night moved to avert deepening confusion within the Coalition by insisting his Government stood fully behind the Croke Park Agreement.
Mr Kenny's comments at the Fine Gael think-in in Westport, Co Mayo, came after a string of his TDs and ministers questioned the deal in recent weeks.
Yesterday as many as six ministers -- both Labour and Fine Gael -- gave different public signals, but Mr Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore sought to whip their parties into line by insisting the agreement will be honoured.
But just before Mr Kenny spoke, Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan also said it may have to be renegotiated -- with pay increments targeted in particular.
Mr Kenny then pointed out the deal cannot be unilaterally renegotiated -- and then mounted a full defence of Croke Park, which ends in 2014.
He said that there is no "difference of opinion" within the Government which is working to "squeeze" as much as it can from the deal.
"We have an agreement, the agreement is in place and the agreement will be honoured in full," he said.
"What we want to see is the pace of implementation of the agreement to be as accelerated as quickly as possible.
"There's an agreement in place here, it's an agreement that is honour-bound and there has to be honour among the groups and the parties to the agreement.
"We want to see this agreement implemented in full in order to achieve the savings that have been set out as part of the Programme for Government."
Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore had an identical message ahead of his own Labour party think-in which starts today in Carton House, Co Kildare.
He declared that the Croke Park deal would be "honoured" -- repeating the phrase nine times -- and vowed to "work" it to get more savings.
"The agreement is in writing, it's on paper, it has 18 months more to run and we're going to honour that agreement," he said.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan also backed up Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore, saying the Government is "honour bound" to Croke Park.
He said it could be renegotiated if there were "cataclysmic" changes in the economy, but added: "We haven't reached that point yet."
But Transport Minister Leo Varadkar repeated his suggestions of getting a better agreement -- and implementing it immediately.
"If we can get a better agreement than the one we have now, then I don't see any reason why it couldn't come into force before the current agreement expires," the Dublin West TD said.
He also told Newstalk radio that talks on a successor agreement should come sooner rather than later.
He said one of the faults with the current arrangement is that many efforts at reforming the public service end up at the Labour Court or the Labour Relations Commission.
"For example, changes to sick pay or now the consultants' contract, which is in the LRC," Mr Varadkar added.