Sunday 17 December 2017

Burton pushing EU bank debt deal ahead of leadership debates

Joan Burton
Joan Burton

Fionnan Sheahan and Emma-Jane Hade

JOAN Burton believes the EU will be more receptive towards a bank debt deal in the wake of the gains by the extreme right and left in the European elections.

Her opponent in the Labour Party leadership race, Alex White, is attempting to mark himself out as a leader who would stand up to Fine Gael.

Despite not ruling out going into power with Sinn Fein, the junior health minister is also pledging to "relentlessly expose the facile nonsense that passes for Sinn Fein policy".

Ms Burton, the Social Protection Minister, is making the negotiation of an EU bank debt deal a central plank of her leadership campaign.

The minister feels European institutions will be more receptive to giving Ireland a better deal on the bank debt.

Ms Burton is emphasising the need for an approach that involves negotiation rather than confrontation.

She is acknowledging the existing lowered cost of debt repayment through lower interest rates and extension of terms, but wants to chase a further debt deal.

Ms Burton is planning to outline her approach over the coming month as the Labour leadership contest goes on.

The first in a series of five Labour leadership debates will take place on Monday night.

Mr White is pitching himself as a leader who will more strongly articulate Labour policy in Government.

And he says he will stand up to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, accusing him of sacking the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan without consulting with Labour.

Mr White has sent out a letter to party members accusing Mr Kenny of firing the Garda chief.

"I am committed to completing our term of Government. But, not at any cost. Labour, under my leadership, will co-operate with Fine Gael as equal partners.

"We have a mandate from 20pc of the Irish people and we will not be taken for granted. I will not stand over a position where the Taoiseach looks to fire the commissioner of the gardai without as much as a phone call to the leader of the Labour Party," he says in the letter.


Mr White said yesterday the necessity for "parity of esteem within the Government" is something he would "insist on as Tanaiste, as leader of the Labour Party".

"In circumstances where critically important decisions are made in Government, particularly of the nature of that particular decision, that their should never be any question that the leader of the partner party in government, in this case the Labour Party, would be excluded from such decisions.

"That should not happen and will not happen," he said.

Mr White failed to elaborate on his claim that Mr Kenny fired the commissioner.

Mr Kenny last night dismissed the remarks by Mr White.

"I'm not going to comment upon somebody who is involved in a leadership contest in a party," Mr Kenny said.

"I've said my piece on this, on the public record of the Dail where it should be. I had a responsibility and a duty that the consequences of the information brought to my attention by the Attorney General was brought to the notice of the then Garda Commissioner and that I did," he added.

Government sources last night also dismissed Mr White's comments and said they were made "out of pure desperation".

"White knows the leadership is Joan Burton's to lose and that's why he has said what he said," said a senior source.

Irish Independent

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