Friday 24 November 2017

Stinging criticism of Kenny for wooing Lowry, Healy Rae

Michael Healy-Rae
Michael Healy-Rae
Michael Lowry
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his top advisers have been heavily criticised by members of Fine Gael over their "wooing" of Independent TDs Michael Lowry and Michael Healy Rae.

There was stinging criticism last night that senior Fine Gael figures have approached the pair and fellow independents Noel Grealish and Denis Naughten about propping up the next government.

The row comes as fresh divisions have emerged within Government over restoring public sector pay rates.

Senior figures in the Labour Party have distanced themselves from comments by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who said no pay increases can be paid unless there is increased productivity.

The approach to the TDs, nicknamed the "New Gregory Deal", first reported in Saturday's Irish Independent, has drawn the ire of backbench TDs.

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin has lashed out, saying it was outrageous for the party to be considering doing business with people "who played a part in ruining the country."

Mr Griffin was referring to Mr Lowry's support for the previous Fianna Fáil government and that of the Healy Raes throughout the last decade.

"Have we learned nothing? If we as a party were to do that we would be going back to the bad old ways. It would be a sad day for the country," Mr Griffin told the Irish Independent.

Mr Griffin said such a deal would enable his constituency rival Mr Healy Rae to claim to be "a kingmaker" in order to increase his vote in Kerry.

Confirming the approaches, Mr Healy Rae said last night: "Of course it is true."

"But, I am waiting until the election before I make any decisions. First of all you have to get elected before you can see what you do or where you go," he told the Irish Independent.

Responding to Mr Griffin, he said: "What part of the money my father secured does he not agree with? What road would he not want built, what school would he not like there?"

Galway West TD Brian Walsh, who shares a constituency with Mr Grealish, attempted to play down the significance of the approaches. "I have worked well with Noel and as a government, we would have to work together," he said.

The group of four non-aligned Independent TDs is being targeted by Fine Gael ahead of the forthcoming general election - a move aimed at eliminating the need to form a government with either Lucinda Creighton's Renua or the Shane Ross Alliance.

The pre-election manoeuvres were spearheaded by Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Fine Gael is hoping to secure 30pc of the vote, which the party hopes could deliver it as many as 60 seats.

Two Labour ministers, speaking to the Irish Independent, have said the party is committed to restoring pay rates for State employees this year.

"We as a party are committed to seeing the end of the financial emergency and hopefully restoring cuts," said one minister.

But this is in contrast to comments from Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who said such pay increases can only be considered as part of an agreement that delivers increases in productivity. Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin will begin talks shortly.

Irish Independent

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