Joan Burton hints at an election campaign pact with Fine Gael
Tanaiste Joan Burton has strongly hinted at an election campaign link between Fine Gael and Labour as both parties seek a return to Government.
While insisting that the Labour Party will fight the general election on its own, she also left the door open to some form of campaign link with Fine Gael.
Speaking ahead of her party conference, which begins on Friday in Killarney, Ms Burton completely ruled out a common coalition manifesto similar to the one used in 1997.
That was the last time both Fine Gael and Labour fought an election after sharing power.
But she also held out the prospect of a looser election link-up between the two Coalition partners.
"Both parties will, by the time of the election, have come through five tough and demanding years, with high points and low points," the Tánaiste said in an interview with the Irish Independent.
"I think both parties are going before the electorate as separate parties. But we'll be going as a government of achievement, where we want to carry that achievement forward into the next period."
Ms Burton would not, however, discuss the prospect of a vote or transfer pact in any detail.
"I think at this point it's too early to talk in any detail … I don't want to predict exactly the strategy in relation to the general election. Labour will be seeking to maximise its vote."
She added: "We will be acknowledging the work that we have done together, that we have been able to reach common platforms in the interests of the Irish people.
"And I think that's what it's all about - it's about finding the right answer for the Irish people.
"I'm suggesting both parties will run as individual parties. But we will bring to the electorate the achievements that we have made and the work that we've done.
"As I have said, the areas where we have succeeded and the areas that have been more difficult for us. We'll be putting them to the people."
Labour was warmly praised by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other Fine Gael kingpins at their national conference, as their favoured partners in any future coalition.
Ms Burton last night said that "I share this with the Taoiseach. I do not want to see us going back to the difficulties of recent years."
She said that the current opposition parties contain some very extreme and impractical views which would not keep the economy stable and on track for recovery.
Even now, some parties and individual TDs were continuing to suggest that Ireland default on its debt and disrupt arrangements with the EU and ECB, she said.
The Tánaiste also argued that Labour was totally on board for the Government's approach which was to keep negotiating and using all the "soft power" available to maximise the country's position.
"The 'megaphone approach' looks attractive but it's not effective," she said in reference to the Greek government.
Ms Burton said she is looking forward to the party conference where she hopes morale can be re-built after a very difficult period.
She said Labour was still low in the opinion polls because Irish people generally did not see enough evidence of the economic recovery in their daily lives.
But the Labour leader argued this would change and the next Budget would build on tax and USC cuts for lower income workers.