Monday 22 January 2018

FG supporters will be told to give their transfers to Labour

Former IFA president John Bryan
Former IFA president John Bryan
MEP Emer Costello arrives hand in hand with her husband Joe Costello for the selection. Photo: Barbara Lindberg.

Fionnan Sheahan, Group Political Editor

FINE Gael is planning to tell its supporters to give their second preference votes to the Labour Party in the local and European elections – a move that will annoy their junior coalition partners.

Labour has been trying to distance itself from Fine Gael ahead of May's elections by pursuing its own agenda and carving out its own identity in government.

As a result, there won't be an official vote transfer pact between the coalition parties.

Fine Gael and Labour have been adopting a more aggressive approach to their relationship in government, resulting in heightened tensions in the Coalition.

The parties are expected to suffer from the normal anti-government backlash in mid-term elections.

Fine Gael is open to a transfer pact and will tell supporters to pass on to Labour, even if there isn't an official agreement between the parties.

"We will. I don't see it happening from their (Labour's) end. From their point of view, they don't want it. Our people will do it anyway. It suits us," a party strategist said.

"We are likely to do so. There's no decision yet. We're generous people and we always do say it whether it's reciprocated or not. We haven't approached the Labour Party about it, but we will do it," a senior party source said.

A senior Labour figure ruled out any question of a transfer pact.

"We have looked at historical vote pacts and find no evidence that they have any benefit for Labour," the source said.

Transfers will be vital in the European election vote, where both parties will struggle to retain their seats.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Irish Independent last night he was seeking to win five seats in the European elections – one in Dublin, two in Ireland Midlands-North-West and two in Ireland South.


"Five seats is the target," he said at the party's European selection convention.

After former Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president John Bryan ruled himself out of running for the party in Ireland South, Mr Kenny said the party's candidate in the south-east was likely to be a Fine Gael TD or senator.

"It looks like it will be a parliamentary party member. A number of them have expressed interest to me but we will consider what the best thing to do is," he said.

The party is expected to select sitting MEP Sean Kelly and Senator Deirdre Clune and then add a third candidate in the coming weeks.

A party source said Fine Gael was in contact with a number of people outside of politics, but it was still likely to be a TD or senator.

Fine Gael formally selected sitting MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Jim Higgins as the party's candidates in the Ireland Midlands-North-West constituency.

The party is aiming to take two out of four seats in the constituency that sprawls across 15 counties of Connacht, Ulster and north Leinster.

But Ms McGuinness is viewed as a far stronger candidate than Mr Higgins.

Fine Gael's strategy is to not impose geographic restrictions on Ms McGuinness in the hope she will drive the party vote up and help Mr Higgins across the line. Fine Gael is also hoping for transfers from Labour's Senator Lorraine Higgins, who a party source described as "our third candidate".

Previously, there was talk of Ms McGuinness being restricted to canvassing in north Leinster and Cavan-Monaghan. Instead, she will only be told not to campaign in Mr Higgins's home county of Mayo and he will have to stay out of her home patch in Meath.

Mr Kenny confirmed there would be no real divide in the constituency.

"I think you're going to have Mayo and Meath being allocated, but I'd say the boundaries, if they are, are mythical. They will probably go after a short while. Given the scale of the size of the constituency, I'd say they are going to have to rely an awful lot on the party supporters in every district. Any boundaries that are drawn won't last very long," he told this newspaper.

Irish Independent

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