Sunday 17 December 2017

Coalition tensions are nothing to worry about, says Varadkar

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar
Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar

John Downing Political Correspondent

A MINISTER has insisted that tensions between Fine Gael and Labour are to be expected because they work together under a business arrangement.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that agreeing a coalition is not like a marriage.

"It's a business partnership - it's not a marriage," Mr Varadkar said.

Ministers from both parties tried to reassure supporters that all is well within the Government after the Irish Independent revealed a series of spats between cabinet members.

The "strained relationship" goes all the way to the top with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore clashing over the aesthetics of the bailout exit.

Reacting to the reports about the toll taken by a series of spats between the two yesterday, senior members of Fine Gael and Labour insisted that - while inter-party tensions were part of daily government life - the Tanaiste and Taoiseach generally worked well together.

Labour's Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, with experience of four coalition governments, said that the key to coalition success was the relationship between Taoiseach and Tanaiste. He noted that some of the rows were between advisers rather than politicians.

"Advisers for Fine Gael, advisers for Labour do their best to try to promote their side of the Coalition Government and their party. That has always been the case," Mr Quinn said.

He recalled how in previous coalitions the adviser Fergus Finlay fought the case of Labour leader Dick Spring.

"The ultimate relationship is between the principals - between the Taoiseach and Tanaiste. And as far as I'm concerned that is rock solid," Mr Quinn told Newstalk radio.

Fine Gael's Mr Varadkar said the Coalition contained two parties with different views, and tensions were to be expected.

He argued that overall relations between the parties and the party leaders were very good.

News of the strained relationship between Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore emerged at the weekend, with growing pressure on both parties to run separate campaigns in May's local and European Parliament elections.

Labour were angered by their lack of prominence before Christmas when the Taoiseach addressed the nation on live television as Ireland exited the bailout and the Opposition were also given speaking slots.

Labour has also been annoyed that the Taoiseach appeared to have been distancing himself from Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte's strong stance on planned pylons.

Fine Gael has also been irked by preferential treatment given to Social Protection Minister Joan Burton on budget cutbacks and Labour's insistence on a referendum on gay marriage during this term of office.

Irish Independent

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