Sunday 18 February 2018

'Solo run' call of General Election by Taoiseach would be 'disastrous', party meeting heard

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Daniel McConnell & Kevin Doyle

Any “solo run” on the calling of the General Election by Taoiseach Enda Kenny would be disastrous for the future of the Coalition, a private meeting of the Labour Party heard tonight.

 Tanaiste Joan Burton believes she has received 100pc reassurance from Taoiseach Enda Kenny that a General Election will not be called until the New Year.

Ms Burton has warned people: "don't bet on an early election".

At the meeting of Labour TDs and Senators, Ms Burton and several senior party figures pressed the need to stay beyond Christmas.

At the meeting, former party leader Ruairi Quinn warned of the dangers to the Government of going before the end of the Coalition’s full term.

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.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Tanaiste Joan Burton Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Tanaiste Joan Burton Brian Lawless/PA Wire

“The mood was very much that a solo run by Enda would be disastrous for any future relations,” said one source.

“Ruairi set out in very logical terms the dangers of going early, while Joan set out a raft of reasons of why the Government must remain in place,” the source added.

After the meeting, Ms Burton was seen pressing her arguments against the November election to senior members of Fine Gael in the corridors around Leinster House.

Read more: 'Don't bet on an early election' - Joan Burton clarifies nature of 'friendly conversation' with Enda Kenny

The Tanaiste moved to clarify the nature of a private conversation she had with Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday, in which she argued against going early to the country.

"Well I wouldn't bet on it. I don't know if you have been down to the bookies, but I wouldn't bet on it," she said.

At a party event in the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, Ms Burton said the Labour Party wants to see the Banking Inquiry finish its work in January and would not countenance going to the people before it completed its work.

After days of mounting speculation that the country would be heading to the polls in November, Ms Burton held a “long conversation” with Enda Kenny about the polling date.

 Sources say that she came away from the meeting satisfied that her Fine Gael colleagues would stick to an agreement that the Government will run its full course.

 “The view is widely unchanged from what it has always been. We want to finish the Programme for Government and the Taoiseach agrees,” said a source.

The Labour Party is desperate for the election to be delayed as long as possible in the hope that their poll rating, currently at 8pc, will rise.

Officials feel they need to reach double figures to avoid an Election Day wipe-out.

A Labour Party source who spoke to Ms Burton yesterday about the meeting with Mr Kenny said she appeared "confident" that the election will be in the spring.

Read more: New 'simplified' ballot papers for General Election

The TD said he was told by Ms Burton that Mr Kenny assured her the speculation was done in order to "satisfy the media's obsession with an early poll".

"Joan said Kenny assured her he has allowed the November speculation to continue because the media appeared obsessed with it," the source added.

In relation to the on-going tense negotiations over a Health budget for next year, Ms Burton confirmed that Health will get extra "substantial resources" this year.

"Let me be clear, we will provide very significant resources for health. There is a clear agreement between both parties in that regard. But what we also want to see is a significant improvement in the management of healthcare in Ireland," she said.

"We have unresolved issues in relation to emergency departments and Accident and Emergency departments and certainly in this Budget, there will be significant resources allocated to health, but they really have to be on foot of delivering improvements on a phased basis. But we haven't signed off on anything yet," she said.

It comes as Health Minister Leo Varadkar has held his crunch bilateral meeting with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin over funding of the health sector for next year.

Mr Varadkar briefed his party's weekly meeting on his attempts to get a realistic budget for the health sector, sources told the Irish Independent.

Online Editors

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