Friday 20 April 2018

Poll date row is putting Coalition pact at risk

Fine Gael ministers turning on Burton over her election comments

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with the silverware won by the Dublin footballers at last night’s Dublin Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in the Convention Centre, Dublin
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with the silverware won by the Dublin footballers at last night’s Dublin Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in the Convention Centre, Dublin

Kevin Doyle, Daniel McConnell and  Niall O'Connor

The Coalition's vote-transfer pact could collapse if Taoiseach Enda Kenny decides to call an election in November.

Labour Party strategists say that the deal done with Fine Gael was based on the election being held next year but they would not feel compelled to enforce it if trust with Fine Gael was to break down before the campaign even begins.

A senior Labour source with a direct role in election strategy said: "The pact was something agreed on the basis that both parties have worked well together. But it needs to be based on trust and that trust has eroded something in recent days."

It comes as the Irish Independent has learned that Mr Kenny has given Tánaiste Joan Burton "absolutely no assurances" that the General Election will be in 2016.

The Labour Party leader said yesterday that following conversations with Mr Kenny she was "very confident" that the election will not be called early.

A serious Cabinet rift has now opened up, with Fine Gael ministers incredulous at the Tánaiste "overstepping the mark" with her public statements on the issue.

"I think Joan needs to rein it in, this is the Taoiseach's prerogative. She needs to remember this is not a joint Coalition decision," said one minister.

Another Fine Gael minister said: "She is damaging the stability message. The Taoiseach does not need her permission on this, she should leave it be."

Mr Kenny and Ms Burton have not held any specific meetings in relation to the election date.


They discussed the issue during their scheduled pre-Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, at which stage Mr Kenny left the door open for a November vote.

"He said that no decision was made but he was coming under huge pressure from other people (to call a November election)," said a source.

Asked yesterday if she was being bounced into an early election, Ms Burton replied: "No. We had a long discussion this morning about the Budget obviously and also about all of the work that we have to do as a Government."

She again cited the need to finish the work of the Banking Inquiry. Backbench Labour TD Arthur Springs broke ranks to publicly state that he would not support another Fine Gael/Labour coalition if the election was held early, but in reply Ms Burton said: "I'm not sure that anybody who is a decision-maker in this has actually said that there is going to be a November election. We have a lot of work to do."

She was speaking at an event to launch a series of community events for the 1916 centenary, which was also attended by Mr Kenny, Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Arts Minister Heather Humphreys.

Mr Kenny and Ms Humphreys refused to comment on the election speculation, with the Taoiseach blanking questions about whether he had given assurances to the Labour Party. Mr Kelly has said that he has "no doubt" the election will be next year.

Sources say the Taoiseach is still between minds about the election date. His strategists feel that they should go the distance but pressure is coming from Michael Noonan and others to go after the Budget.

Irish Independent

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