Wednesday 22 November 2017

Burton refuses to give rebel TDs a vote on divisive FG election pact

Tánaiste Joan Burton at the Kelloggs Breakfast Club Awards at Blakestown Community College, Blanchardstown, Dublin. Picture: Mark Condren
Tánaiste Joan Burton at the Kelloggs Breakfast Club Awards at Blakestown Community College, Blanchardstown, Dublin. Picture: Mark Condren

Niall O'Connor and Sam Griffin

Labour TDs and senators will have no opportunity to vote on the controversial voting pact with Fine Gael at the party's annual think-in next week, the Irish Independent has learned.

Despite the serious reservations expressed by some Labour TDs, Tánaiste Joan Burton's recommendation of a transfer agreement with Fine Gael is a foregone conclusion.

Former junior minister Joe Costello became the latest member of the parliamentary party to voice his concern about striking such a deal ahead of the general election.

The Dublin Central TD warned that Labour must not be "stampeded" into such a pact before the move is "fully teased out" with party members.

"A voting pact would be a new departure, a new policy position and should not therefore be taken by the Labour Party without the fullest consultation," Mr Costello said.

Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan linked the pact to "calculations" of how particular ministers can try and salvage their seats, in a clear dig at some of Labour's Cabinet members.

Two branches in the capital - Fingal and Dublin Bay North - are poised to formally adopt positions against such a pact.

Some Labour figures who have not yet publicly spoken about Ms Burton's decision last night said they believed the Tánaiste should have waited until closer to polling day before showing her cards.

"It was too early. Something like this should not be unveiled until a few weeks out from the election," one senior TD noted.

Others, however, believe it could help maximise Labour's vote in constituencies where there are two or three sitting Fine Gael TDs.

But as Ms Burton continues to convince her colleagues of the merits of the pact, a former Fine Gael strategist called on both parties to go a step further and adopt a joint five-point plan.

Frank Flannery said such a plan would give voters a clear idea of the options in terms of the next Government.

He said that the agreement should focus on areas such as reducing taxation, improving public services, jobs, and achieving additional social reform.

"It should not be a joint policy platform but it should have content," Mr Flannery told the Irish Independent last night.

"But a five-point plan could then be built on by a Programme for Government. It would show that this Government is a cohesive and united unit," he added.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Ms Burton defended the decision to detail plans for a voting pact with Fine Gael. She said it would be discussed at the think-in in Wicklow and that it did not involve a joint policy platform.

"We've worked well, the two parties in this Government, in trying and difficult circumstances for people. Why then would we not say to people that, if we can bring together and get support from the people, that we will look at transferring votes between the two parties?" she said.

"It's not about the actual policy platform, it's about saying after you've finished voting for the candidates in your own party then continue to the other party of government because it has been a government of achievement."

Irish Independent

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