Sunday 19 November 2017

Let's face it, Enda - she's just not that into an early election

Abbey Boxshall (2) from Lucan watches as Tánaiste Joan Burton holds three-month-old Indie Rose Lyons from Malahide at the launch of the Labour Party Women's 'Lets Talk about Childcare' Report in the Merrion Hotel Photo: Frank McGrath
Abbey Boxshall (2) from Lucan watches as Tánaiste Joan Burton holds three-month-old Indie Rose Lyons from Malahide at the launch of the Labour Party Women's 'Lets Talk about Childcare' Report in the Merrion Hotel Photo: Frank McGrath
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

It's easy for anyone who's ever been in a relationship to imagine the scene all-too clearly. Himself is chilling out, grand and relaxed, when he hears the most ominous of commands emanating from Herself.

"We need to talk about our relationship."

Not even a Taoiseach can wriggle out of that conversation, especially when faced by a determined Joan Burton. Rumours have been swirling that Enda is restless, and contemplating changing his party's status to 'Single' any day now. But the Tánaiste wants him to stay the course with her, to keep his vow to stick together until the end.

So they had The Conversation on Tuesday. And an apparently mollified Joan was all smiles when she popped up at a jobs announcement early yesterday, alongside the Taoiseach and Richard Bruton.

"I have always said we would stay the course and do the five [years]. I had a long conversation with the Taoiseach yesterday, a very friendly conversation," she confided.

"I think we know we have a job of work to do, and we're committed to doing it," she added cheerily, listing all the reasons why an early election is out of the question. There are the post-Budget Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill to usher through the Oireachtas, along with all sorts of other legislation in the works, not to mention that a November poll would banjax all the hard work of the banking inquiry.

Oh. Well that's that, so. The Taoiseach had obviously made all the right comforting noises during The Conversation. Sadly, he wasn't present to back up his coalition partner's interpretation of the chat, as he had left the event to head to the Dáil.

And the story got more muddled. One Labour TD confided he was told by Joan that "Kenny assured her he has allowed the November speculation to continue because the media appeared obsessed with it".

Ah here. That's so sinister that all the Taoiseach is missing is a white cat on his lap to stroke during Leaders.

And in the Dáil, it soon became clear that Enda is decidedly less than gung-ho about Going the Distance. When badgered by Micheál Martin on what a November election would mean for the banking inquiry, he danced around the House and minded the dresser.

"The two things you've raised are entirely separate," he dodged. "I don't recall people standing in this chair indicating the dates or otherwise of a general election," he informed a peppering Micheál.

So, why was the Tánaiste so certain that Enda won't be calling on Michael D any time soon? At the party's launch of their childcare proposals, she was asked again about The Conversation.

Joan looked coy. "You're asking about very private conversations, and the private conversations tend to all have one ending, which is 'next year'," she hinted.

Sorted. 2016 it is. So these guarantees in relation to the timing of the election…but Joan swiftly jumped in. "There's no guarantees in relation to anything to do with the timing of the election," she stressed.

Oh lord. Everyone's head was spinning. And then a few minutes later, Joan was doing a photoshoot while holding a baby.

A baby, no less. The single most common campaign trail prop.

"She's HOLDING the baby, not KISSING it," muttered one of her staff in desperation.

Ah c'mon, Tánaiste. Surely that's a sure-fire sign that all electoral hell is about to break loose? "Well, I wouldn't bet on that. I don't know whether you've been down to any of the bookies but I wouldn't bet on it," she declared.

Later in the evening at the weekly powwow of Labour TDs and Senators, Joan and several senior party figures pressed the need to stay beyond Christmas.

At the meeting, former party leader Ruairi Quinn spelled out the dangers to the Government of going before the end of the Coalition's full term to a spooked audience.He expressed his regret at the early calling of an election back in 1997, which saw the then-Rainbow coalition ejected from office, despite the booming economy.

"The mood was very much that a solo run by Enda would be disastrous for any future relations," said one source. "Joan set out a raft of reasons of why the Government must remain in place"

Goodness. Enda and Joan are definitely going through a rocky phase right now.

And if it all goes wallop due to an overload of confusion within the coalition, guess who'd be left holding the baby?

Yep, that would be Enda.

Irish Independent

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